Over the past few months you have undoubtedly heard some troubling news about Zika virus, a mosquito-borne illness with potentially devastating effects, spreading throughout South and Latin America. While the disturbing headlines and distressing cases of Zika tend to be what sticks at the forefront of our minds, there is a lot of positive work being done around the world to combat the effects of this disease.
Scientists and research organizations have dedicated millions in resources to the cause, constantly updating the public about their efforts and insights. This isn’t to mention the actionable steps people can take right away to prevent mosquito bites and reduce the likelihood of contracting mosquito-borne diseases. So let’s try to take a look at the bright side of the conversation around Zika virus.
The Reality of the Health Risks
If you’ve heard one thing about Zika, it’s probably the virus’ link to microcephaly, a birth defect that results in smaller brain and head sizes in infants. It is thought that pregnant mothers infected with Zika can pass the virus onto their unborn babies during pregnancy. Microcephaly has occurred most often in Brazil where, according to Reuters, over 4,800 cases of microcephaly have been discovered since May 2015 (http://in.reuters.com/article/health-zika-brazil-idINKCN0W35YN). However, if you dig beyond the devastating effects of microcephaly, you’ll find that most people who contract Zika virus are minimally affected if at all.
Symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, muscle pain, headache and conjunctivitis (pink eye). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most infected people don’t even realize they have Zika because the symptoms simply don’t manifest (http://www.cdc.gov/zika/symptoms/index.html). The illness is usually mild, lasting several days to a week. Few cases result in hospitalization, and death is extremely rare.
Another tidbit of positivity is that the disease has been contained in the United States so far. Although nearly 200 cases have been confirmed in the country, all of them have been traced to individuals who traveled abroad to an infected area, contracted the virus, and returned to the U.S.
To continue containment of Zika, it is encouraged that travel to affected countries be postponed, especially for pregnant women. A current list of these countries is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
Zika Virus is Being Taken Seriously
The recent rapid spread of Zika virus and possible link to microcephaly have expedited the need for assistance and research in the affected countries. Luckily, governments, scientists, and corporations are dedicating vast resources to combatting the negative impacts of Zika virus around the world.
Recently, the White House requested billions in aid to assist affected countries in emergency response and research (http://mosquitojoe.com/white-house-requests-billions-in-zika-virus-aid/). The funds would go towards educational awareness of the virus, support and training for healthcare workers, and research for the creation of a vaccine in areas like South America, Central America, and the Caribbean where the virus is most active. Most importantly, the bill would provide support for the development of a vaccine and more sophisticated diagnostic tests to detect the virus early. The bill is currently awaiting congressional approval. You can read more about it on the White House’s press website.
Likewise, the Internet giant Google just partnered with UNICEF to help stop the spread of Zika through enhanced mapping software. Not only will the software display areas affected by Zika, but it will use data to predict potential outbreaks.
According to Google’s announcement, “Ultimately, the goal of this open source platform is to identify the risk of Zika transmission for different regions and help UNICEF, governments, and NGO’s decide how and where to focus their time and resources.” (https://googleblog.blogspot.com/2016/03/providing-support-to-combat-zika-in.html) Google also donated $1 million to UNICEF to further help the cause.
While there is currently no vaccine or full-proof treatment for Zika, scientists are confident that vaccine trials will start as early as this summer. (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/zika-virus-outbreak-update-vaccine-safety-trials-fall/story?id=37550339http://abcnews.go.com/Health/zika-virus-outbreak-update-vaccine-safety-trials-fall/story?id=37550339) Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases said that although getting a vaccine approved by the FDA may take years, these trials will be able to confirm whether a vaccine is effective or safe by the end of 2017.
You Can Do Something NOW
It may be frustrating that more definitive solutions are years away, but luckily, there are actionable steps you can take right now. The best defense against mosquito-borne illnesses like Zika virus is to avoid mosquito bites, so here are some actionable tips to reduce mosquito activity around your home:
- Eliminate standing water around your property by emptying and overturning vessels that may collect water, such as kids’ toys, old tires, unused potted plants, and even bird baths (sorry birds).
- Keep your gutters clean. Clogged gutters can accumulate standing water, which create breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
- Fill in any low areas under decks or throughout your yard where water may collect after a rainstorm.
- Wear long sleeves and pants when spending a lot of time outdoors.
- Use mosquito repellant when outside and even mosquito netting if necessary.
- Pay attention to countries with travel advisories and avoid traveling to affected countries if possible.
- Consider using professional mosquito control services like Mosquito Joe to provide an added defense against mosquito-borne illnesses.
There is plenty of available information about Zika virus, its effects, and the importance of mosquito control through organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, and Pan-American Health Organization. Also, be sure to check out the Mosquito Joe Zika Virus information page and Mosquito Joe blog for updates and news in the world of mosquito control.
Contact Mosquito Joe of East Atlanta-Athens for more information on their mosquito control services. Their barrier spray treatments rid your yard of mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks and will help make outside fun again for you and your family. Co-owner Brittany Bartlett said, “We were customers with concerns for our children and pets before we decided to become franchisees. It really does work!”