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As the weather warms up, the threat of increased mosquito activity looms in the air. With the threat of more mosquitoes comes the threat of diseases transmitted by this irritating pest…such as Zika. Modern medicine and research allow for frequent new learnings. Here, we will explore what you need to know about Zika virus.
The Zika virus is a 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.
The primary vectors of Zika are mosquitoes, but it can also be transmitted through unprotected sex with a partner that is infected by Zika. Even if the person is not showing Zika symptoms, transmission is still possible.
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 confirmed reports that Zika can be spread through breastfeeding.
The best way to prevent Zika is to protect yourself and your family from mosquitoes. To do so, we recommend you take the following actions:
Use a mosquito net when sleeping
Apply and use insect repellent (see the EPA’s guide)
Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors
Keep garden vegetation trimmed
Eliminate stagnant water
Use fans to keep air circulating
At present, there are two main types of tests used to detect Zika virus. Molecular tests use urine samples to detect the virus and serologic tests are blood tests to look for antibodies in one’s blood.
The tests are generally only recommended for patients showing symptoms of Zika, those who live in or have traveled to an area with a Zika risk, or persons who have had unprotected sex with someone who either lives or has traveled to an area with a high Zika risk. In the case of pregnant women, the same conditions apply, but tests are generally also done if the baby is exhibiting signs of birth defects that may be caused by Zika.
There is not yet an approved vaccine to prevent or treat Zika, however, many drug companies have been racing to be the first to successfully create one. In June of 2016, the FDA approved the first set of Zika vaccine human trials. Since then, the race has continued as the various companies try to progress through the advanced stages of vaccine development.
Scientists now know that a pregnant woman can pass Zika virus to her unborn child, potentially causing brain defects such as microcephaly. Microcephaly is a condition of unusually small head size. During development, a baby’s head traditionally grows to accommodate the growing brain within. In the case of a baby with microcephaly, the brain either ceases growth or does not develop properly, resulting in small head size. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), babies with microcephaly can experience the following problems, ranging in severity on a case-by-case basis:
Developmental delays, such as problems with speech or other developmental milestones (like sitting, standing, and walking)
Intellectual disability (decreased ability to learn and function in daily life)
Problems with movement and balance
Feeding problems, such as difficulty swallowing
It is not yet clear how likely pregnancy is to be affected by a Zika infection. Studies are still being done to determine the full range of effects a Zika infection during pregnancy will have on the baby. But if you are pregnant or are considering attempting to become pregnant, be sure to take caution in selecting travel destinations and in preventing mosquito bites.
Your best defense against Zika is mosquito control. Ehrlich’s comprehensive mosquito control program will work to control breeding and keep mosquito populations down. Before implementing a solution, an Ehrlich pest specialist will conduct a thorough inspection of your property to determine the most effective mosquito removal and prevention solutions for your situation.
Contact us today to schedule an inspection and start on your way to protecting your family from the potential dangers of mosquitoes.