When mosquitoes and disease are mentioned, people automatically think of malaria, dengue fever and West Nile Virus to name a few. However, due to recent developments, one more mosquito borne disease has been added to the list… The Zika virus.
Earlier this year, the World Health Organization declared the Zika virus a global public health emergency. Since then there has been a lot of talks, both online and offline, around this relatively unknown disease.
You might be asking yourself what is the Zika virus? How can you catch it? And how can you treat it? All your questions, and more, will be answered in this blog post.
- Timeline of Zika
- What are the symptoms of Zika virus?
- How can I treat Zika?
- How to prevent Zika
- How to get rid of mosquitoes
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What is the Zika virus?
The Zika virus is mosquito-borne virus that is emerging and rapidly spreading into new parts of the world. Several species of Aedes mosquitoes are the main vectors of this disease and have been responsible for the recent outbreaks of Zika in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific.
Although the symptoms of the Zika virus are relatively mild, with most people recovering after 2-7 days, the WHO reports that during large outbreaks in French Polynesia and Brazil in 2013 and 2015 national health authorities reported potential neurological and autoimmune complications.
Coinciding with the Zika outbreak in Brazil, the World Health Organization also reports that there has been an increase in Brazil of Guillain-Barré syndrome cases as well as an increase in babies being born with microcephaly. While the link hasn’t been categorically proven, scientists believe there is a close association between Zika and the two diseases.
How is Zika transmitted?
Zika virus is primarily transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito of a few species of the Aedes genus, the same one behind the spread of dengue and chikungunya viruses.
Mosquitoes become infected with Zika by biting a person infected with the virus. Once the mosquito is infected it can easily spread the virus to others.
The virus can also be spread from mother to child if the mother is infected. The CDC states that a mother infected near the time of delivery can pass the virus to their newborn. They also explain that to date, there are no reports that Zika can be spread through breast feeding.
Zika can also be transmitted through sexual contact as well as blood transfusions.
It is believed that Zika has spread to countries such as the US through travel. People traveling to areas where Zika virus is found often acquire the virus themselves, and unknowingly bring it back to their home country. The CDC have stated that so far there have been 107 travel-associated Zika virus disease cases reported in the United States.
Aedes aegypti Mosquito
The two main species of mosquitoes responsible for these viruses are Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus were originally found only in tropical and subtropical zones. However, due to factors such as global warming and world trade, they can now be found on all continents except Antarctica.
Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus are very active and operate day and night. Their peak biting periods are in the early morning and in the evening before dusk.
As with all mosquitoes, it is only the females which bite. Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus are known vectors of a range of disease-causing pathogens such as dengue fever, yellow fever, West Nile fever, chikungunya, eastern equine encephalitis, as well as Zika.
Below are some more quick facts about the two Zika-transmitting species:
- Commonly known as the yellow fever mosquito
- Sneaky biter
- Will bite humans both indoors and outsdoors
- Main dengue vector globally
- Capable of transmitting Zika in Puerto Rico and the U.S.
- Commonly known as the Asian tiger mosquito.
- Aggressive biter
- Primarily bites humans outdoors
- Main dengue vector is some parts of the world but primarily a secondary vector
- Capable of transmitting Zika in Puerto Rico and the U.S.
Timeline of the Zika virus
The first recorded case of Zika was in Uganda in 1947 in rhesus monkeys. It was discovered through a monitoring network of sylvatic yellow fever. One year later, in 1948 the first case was reported in humans.
2007 saw a major outbreak of Zika in Yap, Micronesia. It was the first time the Zika virus had been detected outside of Africa and Asia and prior to this event only 15 incidents of human infection had been diagnosed. The virus was discovered during the initial serum testing where it was revealed that although some patients had IgM antibody against dengue, they showed no symptoms of said mosquito-borne disease. Further testing using consensus primers confirmed Zika.
2013 saw the Zika virus raise its head again in French Polynesia, affecting around 11% of the population. It later spread to other Pacific Islands such as New Caledonia and the Cook Islands. As with other cases, it was first believed to be a dengue outbreak with later diagnostics confirming Zika. Many cases during this period were not identified due to limited laboratory capacity.
Fast forward to 2015 and Brazil was the next country to fall victim to a Zika outbreak in April, with Columbia and Cape Verde following in its footsteps in October. Between November 2015 and January 2016, Zika had spread to an additional 18 countries such as Mexico, Jamaica, and Bolivia to name a few.
On the first of February 2016, the World Health Organization declared Zika to be a public health emergency of international concern due to the rise in the countries testing positive for the virus.
Symptoms of Zika virus
The WHO states that the incubation period of Zika is not clear, but it is believed to be a few days. Around 1 in 5 people infected with Zika become ill, with the symptoms showing similarities to other mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue and usually last for 7 days. The Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for around a week, but this can be longer in some cases.
Common symptoms of Zika:
- Skin rashes
- Muscle and joint pain
Zika virus treatment
As of yet there is no vaccine to prevent or treat Zika. Due to the relatively mild characteristics of Zika, there are no specific treatments, but it has been proven that generic treatments are the most effective.
How to treat Zika virus:
- Get plenty of rest.
- Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
- Take common medicines such as ibuprofen and paracetamol to relieve fever and pain.
- If the symptoms get worse then you should seek medical care and advice.
Preventing Zika can be done by following the necessary prevention procedures for mosquitoes.
Preventing mosquitoes is a relatively simple task and can be done by yourself by introducing small changes here and there.
How to prevent Zika
- Use a mosquito net while sleeping.
- Apply and use insect repellent.
- Wear long sleeved clothing.
- Keep vegetation trimmed.
- Remove standing water from buckets and dishes.
- Use fans to circulate air around rooms.
The most effective way to get rid of mosquitoes is to enlist in the help of a pest control professional. Ehrlich is one of the leaders in pest control in the U.S., serving customers for more than 85 years.
Our pest control professionals can provide expert advice, services, and solutions to help remove mosquitoes from a property reducing the risk of mosquito-borne diseases occurring.
Find out more information on other mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever