Sesame Street videos highlight mosquito control, don't mention Zika

The Muppets don't mention the dreaded Z-word, but for the first time two U.S. Sesame Street videos focus on how kids can keep mosquitoes away.

The videos feature Muppet characters Grover, Ernie, The Count and Rosita. They give kids and their parents information on how to avoid mosquitoes by using bug spray and wearing light-colored long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks and closed-toed shoes.

Produced by Sesame Street and S.C. Johnson, which makes insect repellent, the videos and other educational material about preventing mosquito bites are available on the Sesame Street website.

Neither the videos nor the other information on the site explicitly mention the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which can cause severe birth defects in babies born to infected mothers. Instead, they offer "simple tips that can help your family enjoy mosquito-free adventures anywhere."

Mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus were first detected in the continental United States earlier this week, in a small area of Miami Beach, Fla. While several locally acquired cases of Zika in humans have been confirmed in Florida since August, this was the first time mosquitoes had tested positive for it during testing by health authorities.

The virus spreads from humans to mosquitoes and back to human through bites.

Sesame Street in Latin America and the Caribbean, where it has caused birth defects in thousands of babies, is much more straightforward about the dangers of the Zika virus.

Plaza Sésamo public service announcements on avoiding mosquito bites to stop the spread of Zika launched in March in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

The Adiós Zika! videos explicitly mention the mosquito-borne virus. “If the mosquito doesn’t bite," they say, "goodbye Zika.”

Zika infections rarely harm adults, causing no symptoms in 80% of those infected. The virus also doesn't generally affect mature brain cells, such as those found in children and adults. But studies show the virus can hone in on developing brain cells in the fetus.

Birth defects linked to Zika include microcephaly, brain abnormalities, joint problems, other physical deformities and hearing loss.


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