Helpful Tips to Prevent The Zika Virus
Recent reports of a Zika virus outbreak in Brazil are fueling concern over public safety and mosquito control. Because this is an ongoing case, researchers are still trying to understand how Zika works, who is at risk, and how to lower that risk using mosquito prevention. In this article, we will clear up your questions about what Zika is, including tips on how you can keep mosquitoes away to lower your chance of contracting the virus.
The History of the Zika Virus
The Zika virus was first discovered in Uganda in 1947, and five years later the first human cases of Zika were detected. For decades, Zika appeared to be only a minor health concern, and it was confined to tropical areas in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands.
However, since that time, the Zika virus has migrated to South and Central America. In May 2015, Brazil saw its first confirmed case of the Zika virus. The number of reported Zika cases skyrocketed later in 2015, and on February 1, 2016, the World Health Organization declared Zika to be a public health emergency.
As of January 2016, the following countries have been impacted by native Zika infections: Barbados, Bolivia, Colombia, Brazil, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Ecuador, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Haiti, Mexico, Paraguay, Panama, Puerto Rico, Martinique, San Martin, Surinam, U.S. Virgin Islands, Samoa, Venezuela, and Cape Verde. There have also been a couple of Zika virus cases reported in the United States, but these people contacted Zika while traveling, not in the United States itself.
How Is the Zika Virus Spread?
The Zika virus is spread through mosquito bites, making mosquito control and mosquito prevention of top concern for populations in Zika infected areas.
More specifically, Zika is spread by two types of Aedes mosquitoes – Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. These types of mosquitoes live in tropical areas and feed on human blood. When a mosquito bites a person that is infected with Zika, it can then spread the blood (and, therefore, the virus) to the next people it bites. The Aedes mosquitoes are most active during the daytime, and people are urged to keep mosquitoes away as best they can to lower their risk of contracting the virus.
Zika Virus Symptoms and Risks
The Zika virus has historically been considered a mild disease and not something of great concern. According to the CDC, only about 20 percent of people who get the virus will even experience symptoms. Symptoms include:
- Joint and muscle pain
- Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
If symptoms occur, they happen between two to seven days after the mosquito bite and then last for a few days or up to one week.
With only about 20 percent of infected people experiencing mild symptoms, Zika had not been viewed as a major threat. However, with the Brazil outbreak, the virus was linked with more serious illnesses in newborn children. More specifically, pregnant women who had contracted the Zika virus were giving birth to babies with microcephaly, a neurological disorder characterized by babies with small heads and underdeveloped brains. Researchers are also seeing a possible link between the Zika virus and Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disease that causes temporary paralysis.
Taken together, the recent evidence points to the importance of mosquito prevention for pregnant mothers or women who are looking to become pregnant. Mosquito control is important for this group, who are being advised to keep mosquitoes away to protect unborn children.
Zika Virus Treatment
The Zika virus is problematic because there are currently no treatments or vaccines available. This means we can’t prevent the virus, and we don’t have many options for dealing with it when someone contracts the virus. A series of blood tests can diagnose a person. After that, the doctor usually prescribes rest, fluids and pain medicine as the person’s body fights the infection typically within one week.
Because there is no treatment or vaccine available, the only effective means of reducing your risk is mosquito control and mosquito prevention.
Preventing the Zika Virus
As we speak, scientists are working on high-tech solutions to help prevent the spread of the Zika virus. For example, UK researchers are working on a genetically engineered Aedes aegypti mosquito – sterile mosquitoes that cannot spread the virus and could reduce wild mosquito populations by more than 90 percent. However, these high-tech solutions will take time and right now health officials say we should rely on traditional mosquito control solutions.
In particular, officials are urging pregnant women to avoid traveling to areas that have been affected by the Zika virus. If travel cannot be avoided, pregnant women should see a doctor both before and after their trip.
Beyond avoiding travel, people can practice basic mosquito prevention strategies to keep mosquitoes away. This includes:
- Wearing long sleeves and pants.
- Eliminating standing water where mosquitoes breed.
- Staying inside places that have protections like windows or screens to keep mosquitoes out.
- Using insect repellents.
Barrier mosquito control systems are also an effective way to keep mosquitoes away so you can continue to enjoy the outdoors. Barefoot Mosquito offers 99% natural mosquito control system for Texas residents that eliminates up to 95% of the mosquitoes from your yard and focuses on reducing pesticide exposure to your family and pets.
The only way to really prevent the Zika virus is to completely eliminate exposure to any and all mosquitoes. This is hard, if not impossible, for most people to do. However, you can dramatically lower your risk of contracting the Zika virus by following proper mosquito prevention strategies.
In the coming months and years, we will undoubtedly hear more about the Zika virus as researchers learn more about how the virus works and its link to microcephaly in newborn babies. The overall message is that while we should not panic, we should stay well informed and follow traditional mosquito control tips to keep mosquitoes away and lower our risks of contracting Zika virus.
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