In less than a year, a mosquito-borne virus has rapidly spread through most of Central and South America and some of the Caribbean islands. Symptoms are typically mild, but a suspected link between pregnant women who get the Zika virus and birth defects in their children has given us more to worry about. Learn the facts and symptoms of Zika and how you can protect yourself and your family from mosquitoes.
What Is Zika?
Zika is a virus that is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. The illness spreads when a mosquito feeds on an infected person, then infects others through its bites. Mosquitoes are the vector for Zika and it’s rare for the virus to spread from person to person, although there has been a recently confirmed case of sexually transmitted Zika in Dallas. The Zika virus is related to chikungunya, dengue, yellow fever and West Nile. These diseases are also spread by Aedes mosquitoes.
Symptoms And Treatment
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 1 in 5 people who get Zika will actually get sick. The symptoms are similar to the flu and include fever, rash, joint pain and pink eye. The virus can be diagnosed through a blood test. Symptoms usually only last a week at most and can be treated by getting plenty of sleep, drinking lots of water and taking acetaminophen to address fever and pain. There are no medications that treat the Zika infection directly.
The Spread Of Zika
There have been outbreaks in Southeast Asia, Africa and the Pacific islands in the past, but a case discovered in May 2015 in Brazil has rapidly spread to multiple countries. The World Health Organization says there is a strong possibility that Zika will spread throughout the Americas to every place that has Aedes mosquitoes. Aedes mosquitoes can be found everywhere except Canada and continental Chile.
There is a chance that Zika can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy. There have been cases in Brazil and other places where babies whose mothers had Zika during pregnancy are born with microcephaly. This is an uncommon condition where the baby is born with a small head and incomplete brain development. Scientists are hustling to study this link. There also appears to be a link between this virus and Guillain-Barré syndrome. This is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the nervous system which leads to muscle weakness and other complications like paralysis.
There currently is no vaccine for Zika, but scientists are racing to develop one. In the meantime, the best thing you can do is avoid traveling to places where Zika is a problem and know how to prevent mosquito bites.
How To Prevent A Zika Infection
First and foremost, avoid traveling to countries that are battling Zika. If you must travel, take extra precautions to protect yourself from mosquito bites. Check with your doctor if you recently traveled to a region with Zika. Whether traveling or at home, it’s important to know how to prevent mosquitoes and mosquito bites.
Protect Yourself From Mosquitoes
When mosquitoes are active depends on the species. Aedes mosquitoes are most active during the day, so it’s important to protect yourself around the clock.
Insect repellents are an effective way to prevent mosquitoes from biting you. Look for repellents that contain DEET, IR3535 or picaridin. Some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol repellents can also provide good protection. Always read the label before applying an insect repellent. Here’s a helpful hint, apply any sunscreen first before your repellent. You can also use permethrin, a special repellent used for clothing, shoes and even tents.
If you’re planning on being outside, wear light-colored clothing and cover as much of your body as possible. Make sure your windows and doors are either closed or have quality screens. Consider sleeping under a mosquito net, especially if you’re camping or sleeping outside.
An easy way to prevent mosquitoes at home is to eliminate any standing water outside, where these pests like to lay their eggs. This includes emptying or covering pet dishes, birdbaths and flowerpots. Water that’s collected in tarps, clogged gutters and old swimming pools are all potential breeding sites for mosquitoes.
If you have a mosquito problem on your property, call in the experts to take a look at the situation. A pest control company can identify what may be contributing to the problem and provide habitat modification suggestions in addition to service. There’s a variety of treatments that address mosquito populations and your pest management professional will work with you to find the best treatment for your property.
While the Zika infection is something we should pay attention to, it’s not something to stress over. If you have questions of mosquitoes and mosquito control — let us know!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
World Health Organization
The Washington Post