Bug Off

Good News Concerning Zika Virus

by Margarita Cohen // April-May-June 2017

Over the last year, you have undoubtedly heard some troubling news about Zika virus, a mosquito-borne illness with potentially devastating effects that made landfall in the U.S. in 2016. While the disturbing headlines and distressing cases of Zika tend to be what stick in our minds, there is a lot of positive work being done around the world to combat the effects of this disease. Scientists and research organizations have dedicated millions in resources to the cause, not to mention the actionable steps people can take right away to prevent mosquito bites and reduce the likelihood of contracting mosquito-borne diseases. So let’s take a look at the bright side of the conversation around Zika virus, and what you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones.

The Reality of the Health Risks

If you’ve heard one thing about Zika, it’s probably the virus’s link to microcephaly, a birth defect that results in smaller brain and head sizes in infants. Pregnant women can pass the virus onto a fetus during pregnancy, which can result in several brain-related birth defects. Zika is also sexually transmittable from either gender during unprotected sex.

However, most people who contract Zika virus are minimally affected, if at all. Symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, muscle pain, headache, and conjunctivitis (pink eye). Most infected people don’t even realize they have Zika because the symptoms simply don’t manifest, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The illness is usually mild, lasting several days to a week. Few cases result in hospitalization, and death is extremely rare.

Although hundreds of locally-transmitted cases of Zika have been confirmed in the U.S., as of February 15, 2017, none have been reported in North Carolina. The 92 confirmed cases here are associated with travel, and not contracted in our state, according to the North Carolina Division of Public Health. Health organizations and mosquito control professionals are working tirelessly to contain the spread of the virus. The public (pregnant women especially) is encouraged to delay travel to other affected countries. A current list of these countries is available on the CDC website (www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/active-countries.html).

Zika Virus is Being Taken Seriously

The rapid spread of Zika virus and its link to microcephaly have governments, scientists, and corporations dedicating vast resources to combatting the negative impacts of Zika virus around the world.

The U.S. Congress approved over $1 billion in federal funding for Zika virus to develop vaccines, implement early diagnostic testing, and create long-term studies on how the virus affects exposed babies and mothers.

The CDC has a large hand in the control of Zika virus as well. Aside from their continuous stream of information, tips, and health advice, it is actively tracking the spread of Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses in order to provide the most accurate travel information possible. The organization is also vital to teaching healthcare providers the latest about the virus through new materials, test results, and surveillance tools. While there is currently no vaccine or full-proof treatment for Zika, scientists are confident that vaccine trials will start as early as this summer.

You Can Do Something Now

Luckily, there are steps you can take right now. The best defense against mosquito-borne illnesses like Zika virus is to avoid mosquito bites, so here are some actionable tips to reduce mosquito activity around your home.
   – Eliminate standing water around your property by emptying and overturning vessels that may collect water, such as kids’ toys, old tires, unused potted plants, and bird baths (sorry birds).
   – Keep your gutters clean. Clogged gutters can accumulate standing water, which create breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
   – Fill in any low areas under decks or throughout your yard where water may collect after a rainstorm.
   – Wear long sleeves and pants when spending a lot of time outdoors.
   – Use mosquito repellant when outside, and even mosquito netting if necessary.
   – Pay attention to CDC travel advisories and avoid traveling to countries affected by mosquito-borne illnesses if possible.
   – Consider using professional mosquito control services to provide an added layer of defense.

There is plenty of available information about Zika virus, its effects, and the importance of mosquito control through organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, and Pan-American Health Organization. Awareness, education, and being proactive now to defend your home against these pesky pests will help you and your family stay safe this spring.

Margarita Cohen

The owner of Mosquito Joe of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, making "Outside Fun Again" with mosquito control treatments for residential and commercial customers. For more information or to schedule an appointment for treatment, call or visit their website.