When mosquitoes and diseases are mentioned, people automatically think of malaria and dengue to name a few. However, due to recent developments, one more mosquito borne disease has been added to the list… The Zika virus.
Last month, 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? Find the answers to all your questions, and more below:
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What is the Zika virus?
The Zika virus is an emerging mosquito-borne virus. The Aedes species of mosquito 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.
The World Health Organization also reports that recently in Brazil there has been an increase of Guillain-Barré syndrome as well as babies being born with microcephaly which both can be linked to the rise in the number of Zika cases.
How is Zika transmitted?
Zika virus is primarily transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito 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 infected with Zika often acquire the disease 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.
The Aedes genus of mosquito was originally found only in tropical and subtropical zones. However, due to factors such as global warming and world trade, it can now be found on all continents except Antarctica.
Mosquitoes of the Aedes genus can usually be defined by the visually distinctive black and white markings on their bodies and legs. They are very active and usually operate during the daytime, with peak biting periods being early morning and in the evening before dusk.
As with all mosquitoes, it is only the females which bite. Mosquitoes of the Aedes genus are known vectors of a range of diseases such as dengue fever, yellow fever, West Nile fever, chikungunya, eastern equine encephalitis, as well as Zika. The two main species of mosquitoes responsible for these viruses are Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus.
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. A year later (in 1948) the first human infection of Zika was reported.
2007 saw a major outbreak of Zika in Yap, Micronesia, the first time the Zika virus had been detected outside of Africa and Asia. Prior to this event, only 15 incidents of human infection had been recorded. 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 the mosquito-borne disease. It was only after further testing using consensus primers was carried out that it was identified as the Zika virus.
The Zika virus rose its head again during 2013 in French Polynesia, affecting around 11% of the population, and later spreading to other Pacific Islands such as New Caledonia and the Cook Islands. As with other cases, it was first believed to be dengue before being diagnosed as Zika. Many cases during this period were not identified due to limited laboratory capacity.
Brazil was the next country to suffer from a Zika outbreak in April 2015, with Columbia and Cape Verde following in its footsteps in October. Between November 2015 and January 2016 the Zika virus had spread to an additional 18 countries such as Mexico, Jamaica, and Bolivia.
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 although the incubation period of Zika is not clear, it is believed to be around a few days. It is believed that 1 in 5 people infected with Zika become ill, with the symptoms showing similarities to other mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue and last for around 7 days. The Zika virus usually remains in the blood system 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 whilst sleeping.
- Apply and use insect repellant.
- Wear long-sleeved clothing.
- Keep plants and bushes around your property 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. Rentokil is one of the global leaders in pest control, operating in close to 70 countries.
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
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