There have been multiple outbreaks of the Zika virus in various parts of the world ever since it was discovered in humans for the first time in the year 1952. The most recent outbreak started in 2015, when reports of the virus started appearing in news outlets all over the United States. More than two hundred cases of locally acquired illness were reported in Texas and Florida during that outbreak, while thousands of cases were reported across the Caribbean.
Zika, much like other viruses, has a degree of unpredictability and could unexpectedly rear its head at any time, despite the fact that it does not currently pose a significant risk. Because of this, it is a good idea to educate yourself about the virus and the ways in which you can protect yourself from it in the event that it becomes a problem.
The dangers posed by Zika
The Zika virus is most commonly transmitted from an infected Aedes species mosquito to a human host through the transmission of a mosquito bite. Even though the majority of infected people will not show any symptoms or will only experience mild symptoms like fever and rash, the most concerning effects are seen in pregnant women.
A virus that can cause a birth defect known as microcephaly as well as other severe foetal brain defects can be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her developing foetus by the woman’s body to the foetus by the virus. A child is said to have the condition microcephaly if they are born with a brain and skull that are not fully developed.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 5 percent of babies born to women in the United States during the Zika outbreak in 2015 had birth defects that were associated with Zika. This statistic is based on pregnant women who had a confirmed or possible Zika infection (CDC).
The incidence of other birth defects is significantly higher. Among these are abnormalities in the optic nerve, damage to the posterior segment of the eye, and fluid spaces in the brain that are larger than they should be. Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a neurological condition that can temporarily cause weakness and even paralysis. It appears that the Zika virus may also be linked to this condition, which can affect both children and adults.
At this time, there is neither a vaccine to protect against Zika nor any medication that can treat it if you do contract it. Because of this, prevention is by far the most effective form of protection against the virus. The following are some of the things you can do to reduce your risk:
Stop the breeding of mosquitoes
Remove standing water by dumping it and then scrubbing it away. Mosquitoes of the genus Aedes are responsible for the production of hundreds of eggs at a time, which are typically laid along the sides of containers that are filled with water. This includes indoor plants in containers, outdoor swimming pools with insufficient filtration systems, children’s playthings, and even garbage cans. Because it takes eggs about a week to hatch, it is necessary to empty out these containers and scrub their sides at least once per week in order to remove any eggs that may still be present. This will lower the risk of Zika and will also help reduce the overall amount of mosquitoes that cause problems.
Be sure to guard the septic tank. Since mosquitoes are known to lay their eggs in septic tanks, it is essential that these tanks be properly maintained in order to stop the mosquito population from expanding. Make sure that there are no cracks in the blocks that are covering your septic tanks and that there are no spaces between the blocks. You should also place screen covers over any ventilation pipes coming from the tank. These screen covers should have wire mesh that is too small for mosquitoes to pass through. If you have a septic tank that has been abandoned, you should fill it in with dirt to eliminate the risk.
Do not let insects into your home at any cost (and stay away from theirs)
Either make sure the screens on all of the windows are intact or turn on the air conditioning. When there is a risk of Zika infection, it is essential to keep doors and windows shut as much as possible. It is important to check the integrity of your screens both during the day and in the evening because Aedes mosquitoes bite. Mosquitoes are attracted to warm environments, so an air-conditioned and cool home will make it difficult for them to find a suitable breeding ground.
Keep an eye on your travel. According to the CDC, there have been no reports of the Zika virus being transmitted by mosquitos anywhere in the continental United States since the year 2018. On the other hand, the Zika virus has caused outbreaks in various other parts of the world at different times. If you are going to be travelling outside of the country, you should look at the CDC’s Zika travel page to get the most recent information on local outbreaks.
Practice safe sex. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that Zika can be spread through sexual contact. This indicates that it is critical to avoid having sexual contact without protection for at least three months with a male who has recently travelled to one of the regions of the world that is undergoing a Zika outbreak.
Prevent the insects from giving you bites
Repel, repel, repel! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests making use of insect repellents that have been approved for use by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and contain either DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone as one of their active ingredients. DEET, in a concentration of 30 percent, is the most effective repellent, and it is also the substance that is most readily available in retail outlets. When used in the manner recommended by the CDC, these components, which are considered safe and effective for pregnant and nursing mothers, will have the desired effect. It is important to take note, however, that oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol should not be used in children who are younger than three years old.
Prepare the arsenal against the Zika virus. Even though clothes designed to repel mosquitoes may look ridiculous, they are effective in their intended purpose. Put on long sleeves and pants that have already been treated with permethrin, or pre-treat your own clothing with the chemical before putting it on. (Permethrin should never be used on the skin; it should only be applied to clothing.)
Combine defences. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using a combination of the different types of repellents listed above. Put on a shirt with long sleeves and pants that have been treated with permethrin, and then apply insect repellent to any areas of skin that are exposed. Take extra precautions when applying repellent to children.