The Zika Virus has likely flooded your news feed lately as more and more reports of the infection have been documented worldwide. As of February 2016, the World Health Organization has declared a public health emergency though the virus has been spreading rapidly for the past year. Because very little is known about its long-term effects on infected persons, particularly pregnant women, it is increasingly important to be knowledgeable of the virus in order to help protect yourself from infection.
Areas with Zika
Prior to the latest outbreak, the Zika virus had been present in some parts of Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Since 2015, however, it has spread to all of Central America and much of South America. The virus also seems to be especially present in the Caribbean islands, including the U.S. territories Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa. Reported cases in the United States have also surfaced, though they are linked to travel-related infection versus mosquito-borne transmission. However, travelers returning to the United States from countries with active Zika virus transmission can possibly spread the virus locally once they are home.
Zika is primarily spread to people by way of infected mosquitoes, though it can also be transmitted further through sexual activity. Zika virus was first discovered in Uganda in 1947 and has since slowly spread from there. The first human cases were detected in 1952 though they mostly remained in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Only since 2015 has Zika become a major concern as it rapidly spread to Central and South America at alarming rates. As a result, the Pan American Health Organization issued an alert regarding the spread of the virus. This year, in February, the World Health Organization followed suit and declared the virus a public health emergency of international concern.
Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment
Symptoms usually arise within a few days to a week after being infected, though it is quite common that people don’t actually display noticeable symptoms at all. Common symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red, swollen eyes). Because these symptoms are common symptoms of many illnesses it is possible that the virus may not even be recognized. Symptoms are usually pretty mild making the number of reported cases fewer than what likely exists. It is very rare for someone to die of the virus, as the symptoms are usually very mild.
The biggest concern as of late is the effects on pregnant women and the unborn child. So far the virus has been linked to serious birth defects with the most serious linked defect being microcephaly. There is currently no vaccine or medicine in place to treat the virus, only prevention steps, and treatment of symptoms. The best way to treat the symptoms is to get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, and take acetaminophen to help reduce fever and pain.
When it comes to prevention, it is recommended to be aware when traveling to locations where the Zika virus is present and also where there will likely be mosquitos. Steps to prevent bites include wearing repellent, wearing clothing that fully covers exposed skin when possible, and staying in places with air conditioning or proper mosquito nets to reduce exposure.
To help protect yourself and your family further, it is also recommended to employ a mosquito prevention treatment program at your home such as our own mosquito management system. With Fischer’s Environmental Mosquito Management System we kill adult mosquitoes and then treat breeding areas in order to prevent mosquito larvae from becoming adults. By reducing the overall number of mosquitoes you are also reducing the risk of bites and the Zika virus if it does begin to spread near you.
The Zika virus is a major concern worldwide but there are steps to help prevent its transmission. Because the symptoms of the virus are mild it is important to be aware of ways to prevent further spreading. Contact us with any questions or concerns!