Mississippians traveling to Zika virus-affected countries this summer are being urged to take extra precautions. The three Mississippians with confirmed cases of Zika viruas were all travelers who had recently returned from mission trips to Haiti.
This summer, two groups from First Baptist Church of Long Beach will go on mission trips to Haiti. Pastor LaRue Stephens says they've already been taking precautions in recent years because of concerns about other mosquito-borne diseases, like chikengunya virus and malaria. They use mosquito nets, repellent with DEET and they spray their clothes with permetherin, an insecticide.
Pastor Stephens says they’ll be taking more steps this year due to the nature of the mosquito that carries Zika.
"It's a primarily day time mosquito, so we're modifying our preparations to include spraying multiple times during the day," he says.
These are the type of precautions Mississippi health officials are hoping travelers to Zika-affected countries will take. They also urge pregnant women to avoid these countries. Doctor Thomas Dobbs is the state’s epidemiologist.
"Mississippians are very generous, but we want Mississippians to be safe," he says. "And not bring Zika back with them when they come too. So if Mississippians are going on a mission trip, please take every precaution. And then when you get back from a mission trip or anybody, avoid mosquito bites for three weeks."
Despite the additional precautions, Pastor Stephens says church members are not shying away from making the trip.
"They've said, we will make the preparations," he says. "We believe this is where the Lord wants us to go. The Haitians are living in this environment. Let's go. Let's do what's in our heart to care for them, and to love them, and to bless them, and let's make preparations for it."
Members of First Baptist will head to Haiti in late June. Pastor Stephens will lead a medical mission to the country in July.