‘Sesame Street’s Elmo Educates Kids On The Zika Virus, Protection Against Mosquitoes

Sesame Street’s Elmo is busy not only teaching kids their ABCs, he’s got a series of educational videos ready to teach kids in South America and the Caribbean about the dangers of the Zika Virus and how to protect themselves from the mosquitoes that spread the disease.

According to USA Today, every child’s favorite red Muppet, Elmo, appears in two 30-second public service announcements spreading his message of protection against the mosquitoes spreading the deadly virus that has affected thousand of children in mosquito-infected areas south of the U.S. There are no current plans to air the PSAs in the United States.

In the spots, Elmo shares his safety message in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

In one video, the Muppets demonstrate that wearing long sleeves and pants, using insect repellent, and closing door and window screens prevents the mosquitoes from biting and spreading the virus.

“If the mosquito doesn’t bite, goodbye Zika.”

In the second video, Elmo and Raya, a teal-colored female Sesame Street Muppet, teach kids how to fight the mosquitoes that spread Zika by getting rid of standing water and covering trash containers.

According to Marcos Espinal, director of communicable diseases at the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization, which helped produce the videos, the elimination of standing water where mosquitoes breed is the “most important tool to combat Zika.”

“Since these mosquitoes live in and around houses, this will take a concerted effort with intensified community engagement to reduce the number of mosquitoes in the Americas. We are also looking urgently at improving control methods including insecticides and other technologies.”

Elmo has proven to be very effective in teaching young children about health issues. He has been involved in PSAs with the first lady Michelle Obama talking about exercise and healthy eating.

According to the Huffington Post, Sesame Street has been instrumental in teaching the youngest of the world’s children since its very beginnings in 1969. While Sesame Street may be better known for lessons on the alphabet and counting, it has also prioritized other lessons to help kids remain happy, healthy and safe.

Other healthy messages shared by Elmo in his very recognizable and distinct voice include messages last year about vaccinations alongside Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. This campaign led to Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational group that produces Sesame Street, receiving the 2009 Champion of Health award for its vaccine advocacy.

Amesh Adalja, a senior associate at the Center for Health Security at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, said he hopes the new videos help kids get the message even if Elmo doesn’t take his own advice about wearing long sleeves and pants.

Widespread in countries in South America and the Caribbean, the Zika virus is still relatively rare in the United States. The Los Angeles Times reports that 258 people in 34 states, including 18 pregnant women, have been diagnosed with Zika virus in the United States since the beginning of this year, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Most of the Americans infected had either traveled to one of the dozens of countries with outbreaks or had sex with someone who’d visited those places.

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus closely related to yellow fever, dengue and West Nile viruses, and it causes birth defects in children born to infected women. A Zika virus outbreak was identified in Brazil in early 2015; since then, it has spread to more than 25 other countries in Central and South America and the Caribbean.

If Sesame Street’s Elmo has his way, however, those numbers will drop as more people become aware of how to prevent the mosquito bites that spread the disease.

[Image via Twitter/Sesame Street]