Zika. What is it? Where is it? And what can I do to protect myself?


Zika is a virus that generally causes mild illness in adults but it is believed to have links to far more serious diseases. In countries with a known outbreak of Zika, there have been reported increases in the number of cases of babies born with microcephaly, an unusually small head. There are also suspected links between Zika and Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a nervous system sickness that causes muscle weakness and even paralysis.

While many adults bitten by an infected mosquito may show no symptoms, some unfortunately will feel the effects of the virus. For most affected adults, the Zika virus usually results in mild illness. Symptoms include a slight fever or rash and generally appear a few days after a person has been bitten by an infected mosquito. Other effects of being bitten by an Zika-infected mosquito include conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, headache and tiredness. Symptoms normally last between two and seven days. At present there is no medicine or vaccine for Zika. The World Healthy Organization advises patients to get plenty of rest and water and to seek medical advice should they experience more serious symptoms.

How is it spread?

The culprit for transmitting the Zika has been identified as the Aedes species of mosquito, which is active during the daytime and at night. It is also believed by the World Health Organization that the Culex mosquito may also transmit the virus.

Mosquitoes cannot travel very far in most cases. However, the Zika virus can travel great distances through people. Those returning from effected areas may carry the virus in their blood and if they are bitten by a local mosquito within the first week of infection, that mosquito could then pass the virus on by biting someone else.

Where is it?

Zika has been reported in areas of Africa, the Americas and some Pacific islands. Recently the Florida Department of Health identified two areas of Miami-Dade County (Wynwood and Miami Beach) where mosquitoes are known to be spreading the disease, . While several states have reported cases of citizens effected by Zika, these have all been travel related. At present, Florida is the only state to report locally acquired cases of Zika.

On August 30, Fox 13 reported a firefighter as the first official case of locally transmitted Zika in Pinellas County.

What can I do?

The best protection against Zika is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. Use insect repellants, wear long-sleeved clothing, and keep windows and doors closed whenever possible.

Avoid standing water and try to prevent standing water from collecting on your property. Empty buckets, flowerpots, tires, and anything else in your yard or garden that could collect water and provide a breeding ground where mosquitoes might lay their eggs.

If you have any questions or concerns, contact a pest control specialist for advice on measures you can take to reduce your risk of being bitten.

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