It’s amazing that a tiny insect could cause such large scale problems as the mosquito. As tiny as it is, a mosquito’s bite can lead to serious health conditions…from Malaria to Dengue Fever, Filariasis, West Nile virus, Chikungunya, Yellow Fever, several strains of Encephalitis and, most recently, Zika virus. Mosquitos also wreak havoc on me and my canine pals. Sometimes, we just can’t reach those pesky bites, so we can scratch them. Good thing I have heard it isn’t wise to scratch them, anyway.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), about one in five people infected with the Zika virus become ill. Unfortunately, I can’t find a definitive answer about whether pets can get it. The most common symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis. Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. Doesn’t sound like a picnic.
Although the incubation period for Zika virus disease is unknown, it is likely to be similar to other mosquito-borne illnesses, which range from a few days to a week. Once contracted, the illness is usually mild, with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. While people do not typically get sick enough with Zika to warrant hospitalization, and deaths are rare, the virus remains in the blood of infected people for at least one week.
Unfortunately, the virus poses a particular risk to pregnant women, as it can be transmitted from a pregnant mother to her baby during pregnancy or around the time of birth. Studies are focusing on how some mothers pass the virus to their babies. For this reason, President Obama has asked congress to approve $1.8 billion in emergency funding to combat the Zika virus, because of its link to birth defects. The course of action he and his staff would like to pursue mosquito-control programs and birth-defect surveillance. After the president spends this money to study insects, I hope I can get him to cough up several million to study the impact of bacon on dogs. I would be the first volunteer for that study!
Serious birth defects of the brain called microcephaly (when a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age) and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant have been reported by the CDC. Knowledge of the link between Zika and these outcomes is evolving, but until more is known, special precautions should be taken by anyone who is pregnant or is planning to become pregnant. My wife and I are done with our family. JR is enough to handle.
Prior to 2015, Zika virus outbreaks have occurred in areas of Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. In May 2015, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infections in Brazil. Currently, outbreaks are occurring in many countries, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. Left unchecked, the Zika virus will continue to spread and it could become difficult to determine how the virus will spread over time.
Although no vaccine currently exists to treat or prevent Zika, associated symptoms can be treated with rest, hydration, over-the-counter medications to relieve fever and pain, avoidance of aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and care to avoid additional mosquito bites during the first week of illness. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like avoiding mosquito bites is the best answer. Wish doing so wasn’t so hard! During the first week of infection, Zika virus can be found in the blood and passed from an infected person to a mosquito through mosquito bites. An infected mosquito could then spread the virus to additional people.
The most important steps to take to guard yourself against Zika virus include:
- Stay in places with air conditioning or door screens that keep mosquitoes outside.
- Use an EPA-approved insect repellent that contains DEET, Picaridin, OLE or PMD.
- Avoid geographical locations where Zika virus is known to exist, such as areas of Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. There goes my plan to take my wife on a cruise!
- As often as possible, stay indoors during the day, when mosquitos are most likely to be active and bite. Great…another human excuse to get out of taking the dog for a walk!
- Wear protective clothing (or treat it yourself) when you are outdoors.
- Mosquito proof your home.
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