You probably remember hearing a lot about the Zika virus in 2016, when it officially became a nationally notifiable condition. This virus hit its peak that year with 5,168 cases reported across the country, though the majority of those cases (4,897) were in travelers who had returned from affected areas. Cases of Zika in the United States have dropped significantly since then, with only 433 reported in 2017 and as of June 6, 2018, only 20 cases have been reported. (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) All cases in 2018 thus far have occurred in travelers returning from affected areas, as were all but 13 cases in 2017.
The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne illness, spread mainly through mosquito bites from Zika-infected mosquitoes. The primary species of mosquitoes that transmit it are the Aedes species mosquito (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus), otherwise known as the Asian Tiger mosquito. This is the same mosquito that spreads yellow fever and dengue fever. Zika can also be transmitted between humans through unprotected sex or from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby.
It was first discovered in the Zika Forest in Uganda (hence the name) and the first cases of Zika in humans were documented in 1952. Today, Zika is predominantly found in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. Recent outbreaks are occurring in the Americas, especially Brazil and Northeast South America, the Caribbean and Mexico.
The Ae. aegypti mosquito can be found across the United States, but the risk of Zika transmitted by mosquitoes in South Carolina is extremely low. According to the South Carolina Department of Environmental Health and Control, there have not been any cases of Zika in our state in 2018, but this means that nothing has been officially reported, not that it doesn’t exist here.
Where Zika gets dangerous is in pregnant women. A mother infected with Zika virus can pass it to her unborn child, and there has been a link between being infected with Zika while pregnant and babies born with a condition called microcephaly. This is an abnormal smallness of a baby’s head, and has the potential to lead to severe brain damage, along with seizures, intellectual disability, hearing, and vision loss. Additional links to problems such as miscarriage, stillbirth and other birth defects have been reported. Scientists have also observed correlations between Zika and an increase in reported cases of a very rare condition called Guillain-Barré Syndrome in countries that have experienced Zika outbreaks, but no definitive conclusions can be made yet and much research need to done to determine if there is an official link.
With no specific treatment or vaccine for Zika virus, the best way to protect yourself and your family from this and other vector-borne diseasesis to prevent exposure to mosquitoes and their bites. Mosquito Squad of Greater Charleston’s barrier treatment eliminates up to 90% of mosquitoes from your property for up to three weeks straight. Sign up for a seasonal plan and our mosquito control technicians will treat your yard all season long, so you can enjoy worry-free summers knowing you and your family are protected.
If you have any questions about Zika or other mosquito-borne diseases, or would like a free consultation about our barrier treatment, call Mosquito Squad of Greater Charleston at 843-574-8919 or drop us a line via our contact form and we’ll be in touch. We’re here to help protect you from mosquitoes, ticks, and other biting bugs and help you take back your yard!
Asian Tiger Mosquito (Aedes Albopictus)
Many people infected with Zika will only have mild symptoms, if any at all. The most common symptoms are fever, rash, headache, joint pain, red eyes, and muscle pain. Symptoms can last for several days to a week. Luckily, Zika is rarely fatal, and people usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital. Once a person has been infected with Zika, they are likely to be protected from future infections.
There is no specific medicine or vaccine for Zika, and it’s treated by managing the symptoms — getting plenty of rest, drinking lots of fluids to prevent dehydration, and taking medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) to reduce pain and fever.
If you are traveling outside the United States, definitely check the CDC’s travel information website for travel precautions and the most up-to-date information regarding Zika virus in your destination. Unfortunately, many travelers don’t do this and there is always a chance of them returning from areas with high risk of Zika to bring it back to the United States, thus increasing the chance of another outbreak.