We hear a lot about the Zika vrus lately, and while it is something we should be aware of, the chances of a huge outbreak are pretty slim. Despite the statistics, the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center wants to help you stay Zika-free this summer.

According to an official press release from STBTC, because the main mosquito that can carry the virus, the Aedes aegypti, can only travel 200-400 yards, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we don’t expect waves of infected mosquitoes crossing the border and invading our state, biting people along the way.

A more likely scenario is that once mosquito season is in full swing, a person in our area infected with the Zika virus will get bitten by a mosquito, the mosquito will become infected and then bite someone else, spreading the virus. This can happen anywhere the Aedes aegypti is active, which includes most of Texas.

For this reason, it’s important summer plans include bug repellents with CDC-recommended chemicals that help keep Zika mosquitoes at bay. Using CDC guidelines, Consumer Reports tested several repellents specifically for their effectiveness against the Aedes mosquito, and these are their top picks:

  • Sawyer Picaridin – kept mosquitoes from biting for 8 hours
  • Natrapel 8 Hour – kept mosquitoes from biting for 8 hours
  • Off! Deepwoods VIII – kept mosquitoes from biting for 8 hours
  • Ben's 30% DEET Tick & Insect Wilderness Formula – kept mosquitoes away for 7.5 hours
  • Repel Lemon Eucalyptus – kept mosquitoes away for 7.5 hours

According to the CDC website, when used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Additionally, keep in mind mosquitoes aren’t the only way to get Zika. The virus also can be spread through sexual contact and from mom to unborn baby.

As the mosquito season gears up, the Zika virus has presented a real concern for our region’s blood supply. STBTC already has had to ask more than 600 South Texans to delay their donations because of potential exposure to the virus.

Now more than ever, STBTC is asking our generous donors – and new donors, too – from San Marcos to the Hill Country to Victoria to Laredo, to step up, donate and help us save lives this summer.

One donation can affect up to three people, including accident victims, those undergoing cancer therapy and moms giving birth. Donate today and help us make sure blood is on the shelves when they need it.

Donors must present identification. Anyone who is 16 years old and weighs at least 120 pounds (with a parental consent form), or 17 years old and weighs at least 110 pounds, and is in good general health may donate blood.  All donors receive a T-shirt, refreshments, a mini-physical, and they are encouraged to eat before and after donation. Learn more about blood donation at www.southtexasblood.org.