Zika Virus: What you Need to Know

The Zika virus is the latest disease threat to hit American shores. If you don’t know about it or haven’t heard the latest news, it’s important to get the information you need to make sure your family is protected.

  1. What Is The Zika Virus?

The Zika Virus is a rare disease spread and carried by the Aedes Genus of Mosquitoes once they are infected. These mosquitos are commonly found in tropical regions like Africa. This is why you must be careful when travelling abroad to places below the equator. However, the disease has also been seen in the Asian-Tiger Mosquito. Unlike, the Aedes Genus these pests often fly further north in the summer when the weather picks up. As of now, there have been no documented cases of the disease in America. With the exception of people who have picked it up while travelling abroad. At the same time, however, that could change in the summer when these Mosquitos venture to hotter climates.

2) How Is The Zika Virus Transmitted?

If you are bitten by a Mosquito carrying this virus, there is a chance that you could pick it up yourself. But, it’s important to realise that a bite doesn’t necessarily mean you will pick up the disease. You could be lucky and avoid contraction. It’s also worth remembering this disease isn’t prevalent in all Mosquitos. Before you panic and lock yourself indoors, remember this. At this time, there’s only a small possibility you could contract this virus due to imported cases.

3) Where Is Zika Typically Found?

These Mosquitos and the virus itself is predominantly found in more tropical climates. In particular, the Zika virus is believed to have originated in the Zika Forest of Uganda. It was first discovered in 1947. You might be wondering why it’s only cropping up in the news now with alarming regularity. Up until 1968, it was never expected to spread to humans. Even then, the disease was rare, found only in certain parts of Africa. Now it has been found in other places in Europe, Asia and even Central America. Although again, documented cases were only from patients who had travelled to infected areas. Similar to the Ebola virus, it’s a disease that has been imported into the country. Rather than being contracted here.

4) Is There A Chance Zika Will Be Found In Southern California?

There are two ways this virus could be found in Southern California. First, while it is unlikely these Mosquitos will be found in America, it is possible. This is due to the hotter temperatures in the north as a result of global warming. A much more likely spread of an outbreak would be from an imported source. A patient could contract the disease. A mosquito could then bite the patient, become infected and spread it to another. In this way, the disease could be spread frighteningly quickly. Local authorities are aware of this possibility and will be watching closely as we near the summer months.

5) What Are The Symptoms Of Zika? Is There A Treatment For Zika?

One of the biggest issues with the virus is that symptoms are rare. Only around 1 in 5 infected patients show any signs they have the disease. For many it goes largely undetected. If you do experience symptoms, it could be anything from a rash, fever or joint pains. You might also suffer from conjunctivitis.

The disease has no treatment and no vaccination currently available. Although the government is currently hard at work on developing a cure. There seems to be very little evidence to suggest that the disease is deadly but it is self-limiting. Sufferers should get plenty of rest and stay well hydrated.

6) What About Zika And Birth Defects?

While there is very little research to show a link between mothers passing on the virus to a baby, there is research currently going on in Brazil. There have been several major outbreaks of the virus in that country and it also appears to be linked to Microcephaly. This stops brain development in newborns and over 2000 cases were reported in Brazil in 2015.

7) How Can I Prevent Infection?

There are two ways to prevent infection. The first is to make sure that you and your family are protected when outdoors. You should be wearing insect repellant. If you spend a long duration of the day outside, you might want to wear long sleeved shirts and pants. This will reduce the chance of bites.

You also need to think about reducing the chance of a mosquito infection in your home. You can do this removing any stagnant water from the property, keeping windows and doors properly secure. Mosquito netting is the best form of defence if you like leaving your windows and doors open.

Mosquitos and Man

Has any bug plagued mankind as much as the mosquito? Sure roaches are a pest and a nuisance. But last we checked they didn’t spread vicious and deadly diseases. Cockroaches also, interestingly enough don’t bite. In fact, more than anything they’re an eyesore. Now, while we imagine no one would want a cockroach to show up in their home, a mosquito could be a lot worse. In fact, Mosquitoes have made their presence known in the world all throughout history. They have played a part in every major war you can think of.

Mosquitoes On The Battlefield

Did you know that in some wars infections took more lives than combat wounds? This was in a time before we had MAD weapons when wars were still fought with soldiers. But rather than being shot or dying of blood loss, soldiers were cut down by disease. In wars fought in the past, mosquitos were responsible for the spread of diseases through the ages. Including but not limited to World War II.

During world war, II Aedes Aegypti Mosquitoes gave the American forces a significant advantage. America moved ten thousand troops into malaria riddled zones in the South Pacific. They were fighting the Japanese. Part of the reason they were successful is because they were able to cope with the disease. They had the resources to keep their troops healthy against the virus. The Japanese soldiers were not so lucky.

In fact mosquitoes played a major part in wars on both sides well up until the 20th century. But it hasn’t just been war zones where Mosquitos haven’t damaged the efforts of mankind.

Mosquitoes In Engineering

The Panama Canal was a massive and elaborate engineering concept. It would provide trade passages connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. Work was started by the French in 1881. But they were forced to stop due to high mortality rates in workers. This was largely caused by tropical diseases like Malaria and Yellow Fever. It was Anopheles mosquitoes playing their part spreading the disease. In that time, there was no way to prevent the spread of infections. The stagnant water also attracted the mosquitoes to the site of construction.

But as we know today, this bold move was eventually completed by the Americans. They took over the project in 1881 and saw it to completion in 1914. As we already mentioned the building work wasn’t the biggest problem. It was the risk of infections being spread through workers. The Americans were able to solve this issue, with a huge sanitation effort.  Research around what attracts mosquitoes and causes the spreads of infection was still in infant stages. But the Americans were able to formulate a plan. This included eradicating infested areas and getting rid of stagnant water. It was a huge effort that ultimately proved to be incredibly successful.

Mosquitoes In The Modern Age

Before the 1990’s diseases like Yellow Fever and others that mosquitoes were known to spread were eradicated. At least from the developed world. This was partly due to the developments in modern medicine but there was also another factor. The mosquito population in the developed world had been reduced, thanks to new extensive pesticides being used on grown crops. But, during the 90’s new fears spread through society. People started to worry that these pesticides could be harmful to human health and the environment. Due to this food was once again grown organically with fewer pesticides being used. At that point, the Mosquito population increased again and cases of Yellow Fever were once again more apparent.

That brings us to today. Mosquitoes are becoming an issue again for two reasons. The first is the global climate. Naysayers may doubt the validity of global warming. Yet, scientists have no doubt that global warming is raising temperatures in the north. It’s the reason countries like Britain are now seeing Mosquito invasions in the summer. News stories have claimed thousands of pests are on their way to british shores every year. Worse still, they’re disease infected.

It’s also the reason there’s a risk disease ridden Aedes Genus Mosquitoes could plague America. They’re attracted to the warmer temperatures. Right now, however, the Mosquitoes are carrying the Zika Virus. This is being brought in by people travelling back from infected areas. Although not thought to be dangerous, the full threat of this virus has not yet been fully realised.

Thus, it seems clear that Mosquitoes have played a crucial part in shaping mankind's history, arguably more than any other best. While in the past the man has been triumphant, new health scares show that the war is far from over.