Though Zika is affecting thousands of parents and children in South America, summer camp counselors aren’t too worried about the virus in the United States. Mosquitoes capable of carrying Zika have been found in the United States, but no insects actually infected with the disease have been discovered. Camp counselors do intend to see what they can do about preventing mosquito bites for children at camps this summer, but children don’t fall in to the demographics most affected by Zika.
According to the CDC, Zika is really only dangerous to certain pockets of people, primarily pregnant women. Zika has been shown to generate microcephaly in fetuses, a severe birth defect that inhibits brain growth and other developmental problems in babies. Most other people infected with the virus won’t even know they have the virus because they don’t experience any symptoms. Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent contraction of the virus, and no medicine to treat it except time.
In other cases, Zika may be linked to a neurological disorder called Guillian-Barré syndrome, which causes muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. This condition only develops in a very small number of cases.
Furthermore, the Zika virus can be spread by sexual contact, so children are at significantly less risk for the virus
Camp counselors encourage parents to send children to summer camps with long sleeves and long pants to help cover their skin. Unfortunately, summer camps usually take place in warm weather, where shorts and t-shirts are ideal. And children are going to be outside—they just are. Other options include treating clothing with a substance called permethrin, a chemical that kills insects but that can irritate human skin.
“I don’t see most parents deciding that’s an OK thing to do,” said Todd Livdahl, a mosquito biologist at Clark University. “Most people have never heard of this approach.”
“I guess we’re just stressing applying bug repellant more,” said camp director Alyson Gondek, who is affiliated with Camp Woodmont in Cloudland, Georgia. The camp has not invested in mosquito netting for camp beds or for larger areas, she said. “It would be nice to have a huge dome over our property, but we’d have to net an entire 170 acres.”
Luckily, children are not really at risk for contracting Zika, so summer camps’ traditional methods of preparedness ought to be sufficient.