What You Need To Know About The ZIKA VIRUS!!!
With mosquito “season” right around the corner (and let’s be honest ya’ll, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen mosquitos every month this year due to the weird weather we’ve been having here in Texas), let’s talk about a topic I’m sure everyone is getting nervous about if your familiar with Zika keep reading or visit our Mosquito Control page for more information on prevention and treatment:
The Zika Virus. This year’s version of the West Nile scare, sweeping across America! Hide your kids! Hide your wife! It’s going to find you!
Let’s take a breath and examine what Zika virus actually is, what it does to you, and where it is found.
Zika virus is spread to people through mosquitos (what Are those insects good for?!). The virus causes fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes in those infected with it. That doesn’t sound like fun, does it? Not really, but surely for all the scary whispers about it the symptoms get much worse from here and lead to death, right? Wrong* (unless you’re pregnant… keep reading!). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Rarely, (RARELY people!) a more severe infection will require hospitalization to treat the symptoms. And treatment for the virus? Just treat those symptoms! Tylenol for the fever, sleep a lot (Finally! An excuse to stay in bed all day!), drink lots of fluids to help prevent dehydration (which is one of the issues they would treat in the hospital with IV fluids if it gets bad enough!), and that’s pretty much it. Avoid getting (more!) mosquito bites within the first week of being infected because the virus is still in your blood and those greedy little mosquitos will suck that infected blood back up and infect other people with it.
Before we dive in to pregnancy, let’s talk about prevention. There are no vaccines so prevention is as “simple” as Avoid Those Mosquitos! But let’s be honest here, if you are one of those unlucky types who attract mosquitos like a dollar buffet (meeeeee), this simple prevention measure becomes a lot more complicated! Measures to avoid mosquitos usually involve avoiding outdoors during dawn and dusk, but the mosquitos that carry Zika are the kind that get you midday. Soooooo, stay indoors, use a lot of repellent (it’s even safe to use when you are pregnant or nursing according to the CDC), wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, treat your clothes with permethrin (this remains effective even after several washes!). For children, do all the above and then maybe put some mosquito netting over their stroller/car seat/ crib. Don’t use repellent on babies younger than 2 months though, and avoid hands, eyes, and mouth. To get their precious little faces, apply the repellent to your hands and then gently rub on the child’s face. Another good way to prevent mosquito bites is to help decrease the number of mosquitos in your area by eliminating breeding areas. This involves eliminating standing water on your property, changing water in bird baths weekly, clearing leaves and twigs from eaves, storm and roof gutters, removing dense brush and weeds, turning over compost regularly, and throwing away raked leaf piles immediately. While you’re at it, you could get a mosquito misting system installed on your property or get a one-time spray for a special occasion to help protect your guests! (a little shameless advertising for one of our services! Click here to go to our Mosquito Control page or give us a call to discuss a mosquito control plan that's right for you at (469) 609-7287)
Okay, pregnancy. In Brazil, pregnant mothers infected with Zika virus have had babies with microcephaly and other poor pregnancy outcomes (the CDC said that last vague, slightly infuriating phrase. What do you mean “other poor pregnancy outcomes?!” is what I’m thinking, but ya know, the CDC can do whatever it wants). Microcephaly is a condition in which the baby has a smaller head compared with other babies of the same age and sex. Unfortunately, this usually doesn’t mean that your sweet baby will just look a little odd. Microcephaly usually occurs because the brain did not grow and develop properly in utero. Other problems linked to microcephaly include: seizures, developmental delays, problems with movement and balance, feeding problems, hearing loss, and vision problems. After the CDC states that pregnant women can have babies with microcephaly when infected with Zika virus, it says HOWEVER. “However, additional studies are needed to further characterize this relationship”.
Of course, all of the above assumes that Zika virus makes it to North America (there are currently no locally transmitted Zika cases, only ones diagnosed in people returning from trips to other countries) OR that you are traveling to an area where the infection is known to be. “Where are those places???” you may be thinking… Well, here’s a helpful list! Prior to 2015, Zika virus outbreaks have occurred in areas of Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands, and in May 2015, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infections in Brazil. It has now spread through most of South America and into Central America, including Mexico.
Let’s recap. For Most people, Zika virus is going to be an annoying week of fever, rash, red eyes, and joint pain during which you need lots of sleep, lots of liquids, and lots of Tylenol. For Some, the symptoms will be bad enough to need hospitalization (mostly to treat more extreme dehydration or fevers). For Pregnant women, there is a chance your baby will be born with microcephaly or “other poor pregnancy outcomes”, though no one knows the percentage of chance or the reason Zika and microcephaly seem to be linked. Prevention involves the basic measures taken to prevent mosquito bites, as there is no vaccine currently. As of the writing of this article, you are probably going to have to travel to Brazil or Mexico or Africa to get Zika virus, although it’s already at the border so it may make it to us this year.
While Zika virus is certainly a terrifying prospect to expecting moms, for the rest of us it isn’t quite as terrifying as the whispers would have us believe. Be safe, be smart, and stay informed. Knowledge is power.