If you’ve been paying any attention to the news lately, you’ve more than likely started hearing stories about the Zika Virus and how mosquitoes in the U.S. are being identified as carriers of this new disease.

What is the Zika Virus?

The Zika Virus is an infection known as a flavivirus that is transmitted by mosquitoes and is similar to dengue, yellow fever and the West Nile Virus.  While you may have heard of these other viruses in the past, the difference between them and the Zika Virus is that there is currently no known cure available or medicine to treat it.

The Zika Virus has recently begun receiving a lot of attention as it has been found in the United States, and is being linked to birth defects in babies, including microcephaly which results in babies being born with abnormally small heads.  It is also being linked to other severe developmental issues and even death.  The attention that the virus is receiving comes in the wake of over 400 cases of microcephaly in newborns in Brazil in 2015, with only 146 cases reported in 2014 (Source:  CNN.com)

How Does the ZIka Virus Affect Humans?

Currently, the infection is being reported in large numbers in South America in places like Brazil, Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and has been reported to be spreading into the southern United States in Hawaii and Florida.  As of this posting, there have recently been at least 2 confirmed cases of Zika Virus in Louisiana.  The list of countries that have identified infections is much larger.

In these countries, the virus is being reported to cause microcephaly in newborns, and is also linked to death in some cases.  Along with the links to issues with newborns, the virus is presenting in those infected with symptoms like: fever, headache, rash and even pink eye.  According to CNN, 80% of people never know that their infected with the disease.  This is especially concerning for pregnant women as it can pass on to their unborn children, which is uncommon in other viruses like dengue or West Nile.

How Can We Protect Ourselves from the Zika Virus?

Currently, there is no vaccine or treatment available to anyone who is infected with the virus, and the only known method of preventing the infection is to avoid traveling to infected areas.  If you are considering traveling to one of these areas, the CDC has recommended following extreme adherence to protection protocols and recommends:

  • Using EPA approved mosquito repellent
  • Wearing long pants and long sleeved shirts thick enough to prevent bites
  • Sleeping in air conditioned and screened off rooms
  • Consider a mosquito abatement program from a pest control company
  • Screen all windows and doors where possible

For a full list of countries battling the infection, visit the CDC’s travel information website here.

Currently, researchers are working to develop a vaccine to treat Zika Virus, with clinical trials beginning this year, but there is currently no outlook as to when a vaccine will be made available.  This could mean that a vaccine will not be available for several years.

Traditional mosquito control techniques are being implemented in affected areas including the emptying of standing water and fogging active areas with pesticides.  Unfortunately, these methods of control are only partially effective, eliminating entire populations that carry the virus is next to impossible at this point.

While infection rates are currently very low in the U.S. compared to other countries, it’s still just as important as ever to make sure you’re taking any measures you can around your home to prevent the mosquito population from growing.  Eliminating places where standing water can accumulate is always a great first step.  As we move towards more the active mosquito season, consider having your property treated to help prevent further issues.

Concerned about mosquitoes in your yard?  Schedule a mosquito abatement consultation today!