The Salvation Army in Baton Rouge is distributing 100 hanging insect screens so those without air conditioning can keep out mosquitoes and ward off mosquito-borne illnesses, including West Nile and — potentially — the Zika virus.
The Bug Off screens cover doorways and are being given away on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday at the Salvation Army’s location at 7361 Airline Highway.
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Concern is growing among public health officials and doctors that the Zika virus, which has spread widely in the Caribbean and parts of Latin America, could become a threat in some areas of the U.S. this summer.
So far, the disease hasn’t been transmitted by mosquitoes in the U.S. — though more than a thousand people in the country were infected with the virus while traveling abroad, said Dr. James Diaz, a professor of public health at the LSU School of Medicine in New Orleans.
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The same species of mosquitoes that transmit the virus are found in south Louisiana, Diaz and other disease experts said, raising the possibility that local mosquitoes might pick up the virus from an infected person’s blood sometime this summer and transmit it to others.
Though Zika has attracted global attention in recent months, other mosquito-borne infections — including West Nile virus — remain a threat in Louisiana. Mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus have already been found in the state this year, said Dawn Wesson, a professor at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and an expert in mosquito-borne viruses.
Capt. Brett Meredith with the Salvation Army said the Bug Off company donated the screens, which will be available until supplies run out.