You may remember hearing a lot about the Zika virus in 2016, when it became a nationally notifiable condition. That year Zika hit its peak with 5,168 cases reported across the country, though the majority of those cases (4,897) were in travelers who had returned from affected areas. Cases of Zika in the United States have dropped significantly since then, with only 433 reported in 2017 and only 12 reported as of April 2, 2018. (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) All cases in 2018 have occurred in travelers returning from affected areas, as were all but 13 cases in 2017. But let’s back up a bit.
The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne illness, spread mainly through mosquito bites from Zika-infected mosquitoes. The primary species of mosquitoes that transmit this disease are the Aedes species mosquito (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus), otherwise known as the Asian Tiger Mosquito. This is the same mosquito that spreads the dengue fever and yellow fever. Zika can also be transmitted from between humans through unprotected sex or from a pregnant woman to the fetus.
Predominantly found in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, Zika outbreaks have more recently occurred in the Americas, especially Brazil and Northeast South America, the Caribbean, and Mexico. It was first discovered in the Zika Forest in Uganda (hence the name) and the first cases of Zika in humans were documented in 1952.
While the Asian Tiger mosquito can be found across the United States, the risk of mosquito-transmitted Zika in North Carolina are very low. According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, only nine cases were reported in our state in 2017, all of them being travel associated. There have not been any reported cases of Zika in North Carolina as of April 2, 2018. While this is good to hear, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Zika doesn’t exist here — it means nothing has been officially reported.
In 2016, the CDC considered Brownsville, Texas and Miami Dade County, Florida as higher risk areas and issued official travel precautions to people traveling to those areas, but in the summer of 2017 those travel precautions were lifted.
Many people infected with Zika won’t have symptoms at all or will only experience mild symptoms. The most common symptoms are fever, rash, headache, joint pain, red eyes, and muscle pain. Symptoms can last for several days to a week. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and rarely is Zika fatal. There is no known vaccine or treatment for this disease, and managing symptoms are all one can really do. Once a person has been infected with Zika, they are likely to be protected from future infections.
The biggest danger about Zika virus is in pregnant women. A mother infected with Zika virus can pass it to her unborn child, and there has been a link between being infected with Zika while pregnant and babies born with a condition called microcephaly, which is an abnormal smallness of a baby’s head. This condition has the potential to lead to severe brain damage, along with seizures, intellectual disability, hearing, and vision loss. There have also been other links to other problems, such as miscarriage, stillbirth and other birth defects. There are also correlations between countries that have experienced Zika outbreaks and an increase in reported cases of a very rare condition called Guillain-Barré Syndrome, but much research to be done to come to any definitive conclusions.
As we mentioned, there is no specific medicine or vaccine for Zika. It is best treated by managing the symptoms — getting plenty of rest, drinking lots of fluids to prevent dehydration, and taking medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) to reduce pain and fever.
If you are traveling outside the United States, check the CDC’s travel information website for the most up-to-date information and travel precautions regarding Zika virus in your destination. Unfortunately, most travelers don’t do this and there is always a chance of travelers returning from areas with high risk of Zika to bring it back to the United States, thus increasing the chance of another outbreak.
With no known specific treatment plan or vaccine, the best way to protect yourself and your family from Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases is to prevent exposure to mosquitoes and their bites. Mosquito Squad of Wilmington’s mosquito control barrier treatment eliminates up to 90% of mosquitoes from your property for three straight weeks. Sign up for a seasonal plan and our Wilmington mosquito control technicians will treat your yard all season long, so you can enjoy worry-free summers knowing you and your family are protected. In addition to our barrier treatment, we also offer automatic misting systems that are programmed to release our mosquito control formula for 30 seconds at designated times, or at your command with the push of a button on the included remote control and mobile app.
If you have any questions about Zika or other mosquito-borne diseases, or would like a free consultation about our how to best protect your loved ones with our barrier spray, misting systems, special event mosquito control, tick control, or other pest control treatments, call Mosquito Squad of Wilmington at (910) 791-9800 or fill our our contact form and we’ll reach out to you. As the most trusted name in mosquito and tick control, Mosquito Squad’s top priority is your safety. We look forward to helping you!
(For additional protection, always follow the 5 T’s of mosquito control to make your yard less favorable to mosquitoes.)
Aedes Albopictus mosquito with belly full of blood
The best way to prevent Zika Virus is to reduce exposure to mosquitoes.