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Puerto Rico Declares Zika Epidemic Over

According to CNN, Puerto Rico’s long Zika “nightmare” is now over. Only 10 cases have been reported since April and the mosquito-borne disease is no longer considered a threat. One question remains: Was the Zika epidemic another false alarm?

Zika fear-mongering peaked last year, even as experts said they expect Zika to go the way of other tropical diseases spread by mosquitoes, such as dengue fever and chikungunya, in the U.S., with perhaps small clusters of outbreaks in southern states and little activity elsewhere. We've seen a string of these over-hyped virus scares in recent years, from the bird and swine flu "pandemics" to Ebola — all of which died down as suddenly as they emerged, without causing the predicted widespread catastrophic damage in the real world.

Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies are racing to develop the first Zika vaccine, while the U.S. House of Representatives passed a $1.1 billion Zika funding bill. A rider inserted into the bill would allow pesticides to be sprayed over ditches, streams and other waterways protected by the Clean Water Act for a period of 180 days, with no permit required.

Many experts agree that the threat of an epidemic outbreak of Zika virus on continental U.S. soil is virtually nonexistent and may be overblown elsewhere as well. So you needn't go dousing your backyard (or yourself) in chemicals in an attempt to stay safe from the Zika virus (whose connection to birth defects is still being explored).

If, however, mosquitoes are bothersome for you, there are some steps you can take to encourage them to live elsewhere. Draining standing water, including pet bowls, gutters, garbage and recycling bins, spare tires, bird baths, children's toys and so on, is important. This is where mosquitoes breed, so if you eliminate standing water you'll eliminate many mosquitoes.

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