As you’ve more that likely heard by now, a relatively recent outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus is making its way around South America, mostly in the country of Brazil. The virus is actually not new, as it was first discovered and identified in the late 1940’s in Uganda. Since then there have been subsequent small outbreaks on other continents and in other regions around the globe, including 2007 and 2013. The most recent ones started in mid-2015 in Brazil, Colombia, and Africa.
Like Yellow Fever, the Zika virus is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. So far it has been detected in about 20 different states here in the U.S., but nearly everyone diagnosed had recently visited areas previously tagged as Zika hotspots.
Zika Virus Symptoms
Symptoms often don’t even show up in infected individuals, but if they do it’s an estimated 3-7 days after being bitten. Zika virus symptoms are generally not severe, and include muscle aches, joint pain, headache, fever, rashes on the skin, and overall discomfort.
So far, no deaths have been confirmed as directly a result of the virus, but researchers are presently investigating a few specific cases that may possibly be linked to it in some way.
The major concern with the Zika virus is the growing evidence that women who are infected while pregnant are at risk of passing the virus on to their unborn child. In Brazil, scientists and doctors are investigating an increase in both Guillain-Barre syndrome and a condition known as microcephaly that seem to coincide with the most recent outbreak. In Guillain-Barre, your nervous system is attacked by your own immune system, and microcephaly is a condition where babies are born with small than normal heads and possibly also underdeveloped brains.
While no infected mosquitos have been found in the United States, and the virus not an immediate threat, if you’re concerned, the best way to prevent infection is simply to not get bitten by a Zika-infected mosquito. Long-sleeved shirts and other clothing that covers the body, combined with bug repellent, will minimize any chance of being bitten at all. You should also eliminate any areas of standing water where mosquitos are likely to breed.