Have you seen the Zika virus mentioned more and more frequently in the news in recent months? The virus was first discovered in a Uganda forest in 1947, but has grown in prominence in recent years. In 2013, there was an outbreak in French Polynesia, and late last year, an outbreak started in Brazil.
The Brazilian outbreak has spread to other South American and Caribbean countries. In fact, earlier this month, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a public health emergency that could ultimately affect several million people.
What exactly are the dangers of the Zika virus? Could it come to the United States? And if so, how can you protect yourself? In this article you’ll find the answers to those questions and more.
What is the Zika virus?
The Zika virus is actually very mild. According to the CDC, only one in five people who have it ever experience any symptoms. Those symptoms usually include things like a rash, joint and muscle pain, fever, and headache. The virus stays in the system for about a week, and once you have it, you’re unlikely to contract it again.
The real danger of the Zika virus has to do with pregnancy. There has been a sharp rise in birth defects in Brazil since the start of the Zika outbreak. Some scientists now believe that pregnant women who contract Zika have a higher risk of giving birth to a baby with microcephaly, which results in an abnormally small head and stunted brain growth.
Studies are underway to confirm a link between Zika and birth defects. However, the correlation between the two in Brazil has been strong enough for the government to warn women to avoid getting pregnant.
How is it transmitted?
Zika virus is primarily transmitted through mosquitoes. If a mosquito bites a person who has Zika virus and then bites a second person, that second person could contract the disease.
The sharp rise in microcephaly also suggests that pregnant women can pass on the disease to their unborn children. However, researchers have thus far been unable to confirm how that happens or how it can be prevented.
Also, there is some anecdotal evidence that the disease can be sexually transmitted. In 2011, a man reportedly caught the disease in Senegal, then passed it onto his wife after he returned home to Colorado.
Will Zika come to the United States?
It’s already here. On February 2, Center of Disease Control officials announced that a Dallas resident had contracted the disease after having a sexual relationship with a person who had contracted Zika while in Venezuela.
The main mode of transmission, though, is through mosquito bites. It is possible that mosquitoes could spread the illness in the United States, but experts have said there are several factors that would limit the outbreak here.
First, our urban areas aren’t as densely populated as those in Brazil, meaning the disease wouldn’t spread as quickly. Also, unlike in Brazil, we tend to use air conditioners to cool our homes rather than leaving an unscreened window open. That reduces our exposure to mosquitoes. Experts suggest that an outbreak in the United States would be limited.
How can I protect myself and my family?
The best way to protect yourself is to avoid travel to countries that are currently struggling with a Zika outbreak. Here at home, simply use many of the mosquito prevention methods that you would normally implement in the summer.
Make sure your windows are screened. Eliminate areas of standing water. Use plenty of bug spray when outdoors. If you have a serious mosquito problem, contact a professional like Scherzinger Pest Control to come out and address the issue.
If you’re worried about the bug population in and around your home, contact us today. Scherzinger Termite and Pest Control is a trusted pest control company in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky areas, including Dayton, OH, and now Columbus, OH. We’ve been pioneers, engineering new standards for ways of eliminating and controlling bugs and pests. Contact us by phone at 1-877-748-9888 or through our website, Facebook, or Twitter.