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Zika Virus: A Quick Q&A Session

With the outbreak of the Zika virus in Brazil last year and the recent spread to a number of countries in the Americas, scientists and global health officials have been frantically seeking not only a solution to the virus but a better understanding of it in general. There have been a number of questions surrounding the Zika virus and we hope to be able to pass on a little of the knowledge from some of the experts here:

How Likely Am I to Become Infected?

A single bite from an infected female mosquito is all it takes. Transmitted primarily by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, a mosquito known to spread Dengue and Chikungunya as well as yellow fever, the Aedes mosquitoes have been found in each and every one of countries in the Americas excluding Canada and Chile. According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) the virus is expected to eventually reach any and every country where the Aedes breed is found.

Bottom line: While Zika carrying mosquitoes have yet to reach the United States, the type of mosquito that does is already here. Additionally, travel to any of the southern Americas countries is advised against and will increase your risk of contracting Zika.

What Is the Treatment If I Contract Zika?

Experts have yet to discover a treatment or vaccine for the Zika infection. Currently working to find a solution, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that starting clinical trials of preventative shots on a large scale is still eighteen months away at a minimum.

Bottom line: There is currently no medical protection or vaccine and the experts are predicting it will be a while yet until we have a solution.

How Dangerous Is the Zika Virus to Me?

There has been no evidence of fatalities resulting from Zika virus according to PAHO. However, cases including more serious complications have been reported in patients that have a pre-existing medical condition. The Zika virus has also been linked to cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare disorder that causes the body’s immune system to attack parts of the nervous system.

Bottom line: Symptoms are generally mild and similar to that of the flu, but more severe cases have been recorded.

What Is the Zika Virus’ Relation to Microcephaly?

Causing birth defects in babies, such as abnormally small heads that can cause problems in their development, Microcephaly is strongly suspected to be linked to the Zika virus by the WHO. Currently conducting research in Brazil to confirm the suspected connection, public health officials expect initial findings within months.

Having confirmed 944 cases of Microcephaly, Brazil considers a vast majority of these cases to be directly related to mothers Zika infections. Additionally, Brazil is investigating 4,291 unconfirmed cases as well. Their research indicates that the greatest risk of infection and Microcephaly occurs during the first trimester of pregnancy. While other countries recent studies of the virus have found evidence of infection in amniotic fluid, as well as placenta and fetal brain tissue.

Bottom line: Zika being a direct cause of Microcephaly is still in the process of being confirmed, but widely accepted and suspected as having such a link.

Symptoms: How Do I Know If I Contracted Zika?

It can be difficult to tell if you have contracted Zika without consulting a doctor. While the most common symptoms include everything from joint pain and fatigue to a skin rash or mild fever, the symptoms generally last only two to seven days at the most. Making it even more difficult to pinpoint whether you may have contracted Zika is the fact that as much as 80 percent of those who have been infected develop no symptoms at all. Additionally, symptoms of Zika are extremely similar to the symptoms of Dengue and Chikungunya, both of which are transmitted by the same Mosquito responsible for spreading Zika.

Bottom line: Symptoms of Zika are very similar to your average flu or even nonexistent in some cases. If you recently traveled out of the country, you should consult your doctor to determine if you have contracted Zika.

How Can I Help Contain Zika?

Controlling the spread of Zika begins with controlling mosquito populations in your area. Make sure to check your property for any areas that allow water to collect and sit for extended periods of time. This can include everything from gutters that aren’t draining properly, to kiddie pools, tarps, and even puddles. You can also help control the spread of not only Zika but other mosquito-borne diseases with the use of protective actions like bug sprays, mosquito nets, and mosquito barrier sprays. Finally, United States health officials are advising pregnant women to avoid traveling to countries in Latin America the Caribbean where the risk of exposure to Zika is much higher.

Bottom line: Stopping the Zika virus starts with protecting yourself, your family and your property. Reduce your risk with a Mosquito Squad Barrier Treatment.

What Countries Have Already Experienced a Zika Outbreak?

Outbreaks of the Zika virus have already been reported in at least 41 countries/territories throughout the world. The majority of Zika outbreaks have occurred within the Americas with Brazil being the country that has been most affected according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, American scientists and experts are warning that we should begin preparing for not only an inevitable outbreak of Zika in the United States but the possibility of multiple, simultaneous outbreaks of mosquito-borne disease that are carried by the Aedes Aegypti.

Bottom line: Zika has continued to spread rapidly since the first outbreak was recorded, and while timing remains unpredictable, an outbreak in America seems inevitable.

A History: Where Did the Zika Virus Originate?

Originating in tropical locales that possess large mosquito populations, the Zika virus was first identified in Ugandan rhesus monkeys in 1947, with the first human case recorded in Uganda and Tanzania only 5 years later in 1952. According to the WHO, outbreaks have since been recorded in Africa, Southern Asia, the Western Pacific, and predominantly in the Americas.

Bottom line: Until the recent unprecedented spread in outbreaks, the Zika virus was insignificant enough to not be recognized as a potential problem.

Is It Possible for Zika to Be Transmitted Through Sexual Contact?

The United States CDC is currently investigating a number of cases of possible sexual transmission of the Zika virus in America, all of which involve possible transmission from men to their sexual partners. According to the WHO, sexual transmission of the Zika virus is “relatively common”. They are advising pregnant women to avoid traveling to areas that are seeing ongoing outbreaks of the Zika virus until further notice.

Outside of America, France recorded its first case of the Zika virus being sexually transmitted by a man who had recently traveled to Brazil on February 27th of this year. Even more recently, the WHO reported on March 31st that there had been multiple recordings of locally acquired infections, most likely through sexual transmission, in countries where Zika is not known to be spread by mosquitoes. The list of only 6 countries confirmed thus far includes the United States, France, Italy, New Zealand, Chile, and Argentina.

Additionally, British health officials have reported evidence that the Zika virus may linger in a subject's system for as long as 2 months after original symptoms of infection have faded. Confirming that Zika can be transmitted through blood, the PAHO has reported that this is an infrequent mechanism of transmission and there is no evidence that Zika can be transmitted to babies via breast milk.

Bottom line: Still in the process of confirming all forms of transmission, a number of organizations have already accepted sexual contact as responsible for the spread of the Zika virus in areas that don’t have Zika bearing mosquitoes.

Are There Any Other Complications Associated with Zika That I Should Be Aware Of?

With no real data of major outbreaks recorded before 2007, the WHO says that little has been able to be confirmed when it comes to complications that are caused by Zika infection. There have been unusual increases in Guillain-Barre syndrome reported during outbreaks of Zika in French Polynesia in 2013 and 2014, as well as in Brazil in the recent years, but a connection is still yet to be confirmed between the two.

While any long-term health consequences of the Zika virus are still unclear at this time. There are also a number of uncertainties surrounding Zika’s incubation period and how it interacts with other viruses that are transmitted by mosquitoes, such as Dengue and Chikungunya.

Bottom line: The experts are still gathering the data necessary to assess long term effects and dangers, as well as confirm links to the increase of other diseases in areas affected by Zika.

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