A new virus that is spread to people through mosquito bites is Zika virus. The most common symptoms of this virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is rare.
An alert was issued by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in May 2015 against the first confirmed Zika virus infection in Brazil. The outbreak in Brazil led to reports of Guillain-Barre syndrome and pregnant women giving birth to babies with birth defects and poor pregnancy outcomes.
These are the 5 most important things you need to know about this virus:
- A vaccine has not been found to prevent Zika, or a medicine to treat the infection.
- Aedes mosquitoes transmit the virus by biting a person with an active infection then biting others. The infected people then become carriers during the time they have symptoms.
- According to the CDC, the Zika virus is now being locally transmitted in Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Cape Verde, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Suriname, Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Venezuela.
- Since there is no treatment or vaccine available, the best protection is to avoid travelling to areas with an active infestation. If you have to travel to a country where Zika is present, the CDC advises strict adherence to mosquito protection measures: Use an EPA-approved repellent over sunscreen, wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts, thick enough to block a mosquito bite, and sleep in air-conditioned, screened rooms, among others.
Researchers around the world are working hard to create a Zika vaccine. Health officials are implementing traditional mosquito control techniques such as spraying pesticides and emptying standing water receptacles where mosquitoes breed. The CDC urges all the local homeowners, hotel owners and visitors to countries where the Zika virus is present; to participate in these preventive measures and eliminate the standing water they seem like in outdoor buckets and flower pots.
Studies show local control is only marginally effective, since it is so hard to get to all possible breeding areas. Brian Foy, a microbiologist, said that these mosquitoes are not only hard to find, but as well to eliminate, since Aedes aegypti, the type of mosquitoes that spread the virus, has evolved to live near humans and “can replicate in flower vases and other tiny sources of water.”