Preventing a Mosquito-Borne Illness: A Guide from A to Zika
Mosquito season is upon us. Especially in warm, humid climates like Texas, mosquitoes plague residents. Their bites may be annoying, but the main concern is that some mosquitoes can carry dangerous infections. The Zika virus is striking citizens across Central and South America. So far, the infected mosquitoes haven’t bitten anyone in the U.S. However, Americans have caught the virus while abroad. Learn more about what this virus entails and how to prevent it with our simple steps!
What is Zika?
The Zika virus, which was first discovered in the 1940s in Uganda, has since infected parts of Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. Zika is spread through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito, through sex with a man who has Zika or through an infected blood transfusion. Until the current outbreak in the Americas, Zika was not thought of as a serious illness. After all, its usual symptoms are minor– fever, joint pain, redness in the eyes and a rash– and few people need hospitalization. Some people who contract Zika never experience symptoms. For this reason, it’s important to be tested for Zika, especially after traveling to high-risk areas. If you might have Zika, make an appointment with Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group.
The New Zika
The current outbreak brings a new symptom, targeting the youngest among us. Pregnant moms who are infected with Zika run the risk of their babies being born with a brain defect, often microcephaly, characterized by an abnormally small head and underdeveloped brain. For men and women who are not pregnant, Zika is usually not a serious illness.
Some scientists have proposed a possible link between Zika and Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), a disease in which your immune system attacks your nerve cells. While most people totally recover from GBS, a minority suffer permanent paralysis and one in every 20 people dies from GBS. Currently, this link has not been confirmed, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating.
Because of the risk of brain defects and the possible link to GBS, this outbreak of Zika is being taken very seriously.
How to Prevent Zika
Doing your part to prevent Zika can be as easy as ABC.
A - Avoid areas where Zika is common. Check out the CDC’s website for up to date information about areas where the Zika virus has been reported.
B - Use bug spray whenever you go outside. Be sure to apply mosquito repellent to all exposed skin, including your scalp, face, ears and neck.
C - Cover yourself with long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks and closed-toed shoes. Use mosquito netting to cover outdoor seating areas and beds if mosquitos tend to infiltrate your home after dark.
D - Drain any standing water. Mosquitoes breed in puddles, including bird baths, untreated pools, still ponds, buckets of rainwater, etc. Be sure your pool and pond are treated and cleaned regularly, and search your yard for any standing water weekly. Pour out and replenish bird baths at least once a week. If you come across any puddles or holes filled with water, fill them in with dirt or drain them.
Though the new frontier of Zika is disconcerting, with careful attention to the ABCs of Zika prevention and education about the virus itself, you can help curb its spread and protect your family. If you’ve visited an area where Zika has been reported, make an appointment with your Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group doctor and get tested today.