NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - As part of the state's fight against the Zika virus, Louisiana Medicaid will now cover mosquito repellent for patients who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant.
Dr. Christy Valentine is the Louisiana Health Department's reproductive health medical director. She says even though mosquitoes aren't locally transmitting the Zika virus, it's important for pregnant women or those trying to conceive to protect themselves.
"It's only about 20 percent of people that actually have those symptoms, and most people, they don't seek medical treatment, so it's important to make sure, since a lot of people don't know they have the virus, that we stay protected," Valentine said.
Louisiana doctors can now prescribe mosquito repellent for their Medicaid patients. The state health department says the program will only cover repellents approved by the Environmental Protection Agency that contain DEET or Picaridin.
"They have several different repellents that they cover, and that is why it's important to talk to your primary care provider because you will need a prescription for this even though you can buy it over the counter," Valentine said.
Last week, Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced that the city will allocate an additional $500,000 to more aggressively fight the two mosquitoes species in New Orleans that can spread the virus. Claudia Riegel, director of the New Orleans Mosquito, Termite and Rodent Control Board, says the phones have been ringing off the hook since then.
"I think the message has really gotten across because we asked the residents to please report standing water, turn over containers, and so people are calling in with their concerns," Riegel said.
Others in the area who are concerned about Zika are hiring private companies to spray at their homes.
"Because everything's so new with this Zika virus, nobody really knows exactly what it entails and what's the outcome, so unfortunately, I am just worried about everybody being sick," said Metairie homeowner Rae Dodd.
Terry Farmer owns local mosquito spraying company Mosquito Joe and says his business is up at least 40 percent from last year.
"We have seen an increase. A lot of mothers, wives, women who are expecting are calling showing their concerns about the Zika virus," said Farmer.
It's important to note, there have been no locally transmitted cases of the Zika virus in Louisiana. The state reports 19 travel-related cases.