The Zika virus is clear proof that mosquito populations can be serious health hazards. The best way to prevent Zika from impacting your family is protecting them from mosquito bites; this includes repelling the biters and keeping their populations from growing.
The good news is the U.S. is well-equipped to control mosquitoes. But we all have to do our part.
The most effective prevention method is a team approach – involving you and your community, public health and vector control officials and professional applicators.
In early 2016, the World Health Organization declared the Zika virus a global public health threat and serious concern for pregnant women or women who may become pregnant. The virus is active in 61 countries and thought to be responsible for a range of birth defects.
The Zika virus is spread to people who are bitten by an infected Aedes mosquito. They are also commonly known as yellow fever mosquitoes. The virus can cause symptoms ranging from mild fever and joint pain to a skin rash or conjunctivitis.
The WHO declaration of Zika as a global public health threat came after cases of the Zika virus were confirmed in the Americas, Caribbean, Africa, Asia and the Pacific in 2016. In the U.S., Aedes mosquitoes are found primarily in the southern part of the country, but they have the potential to reach as far north as Connecticut. Initially, the virus was not expected to travel outside of the southern region of the U.S., but recent cases show the ability of the virus to spread from person to person, expanding the areas impacted by the virus. View maps of the expected range of the Aedes aegypti mosquito here, and learn more from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here.
What is an Aedes aegypti mosquito?
Aedes aegypti, the main culprit of the Zika outbreak, is also responsible for spreading Dengue, Chikungunya and other viruses.
Aedes isn’t your typical mosquito. Here are a few of its distinct characteristics and quick facts about these pests:
- Aedes lay eggs in containers with standing water found in bowls, cups, fountains, tires, vases, and even pools of water as tiny those collected in bottle caps.
- Aedes prefer to live near people, meaning they actively look for ways to get inside your home and living spaces. They only fly a few blocks during their lifetime. Actively managing and eliminating their local habitat in and around your home is very important.
- Aedes are typically found in or around your house. These mosquitoes are able to breed indoors where there is less variation of climate, which typically elongates their lifespan. The mosquitoes tend to gravitate towards dark, humid places in your house, such as under the sink, in closets, under furniture, or in the laundry room.
- Aedes are daytime biters. While we often think of mosquitoes as being active at dawn and dusk, these pests bite all day long.
How can the Zika virus spread?
According to the CDC, there are four ways the Zika virus can be transmitted:
- Mosquito bites: Zika-infected Aedes aegypti and albopictus mosquitoes transmit the virus to people through bites.
- Mother to child: Mothers who contract the Zika virus pass it on to their child.
- Sexual contact: Zika virus can be spread between partners during intimacy since it can remain in semen for six months.
- Blood transfusion: To date, there are no confirmed blood transfusion transmission cases in the U.S.; however, there were confirmed cases of transmission through blood transfusion in Brazil, resulting in the CDC’s warning.
Health officials are still in the process of determining how long the virus can remain in a person’s system, so if you are planning to travel to countries where the virus is active, please be mindful of how Zika can spread and contact your physician if you have any questions. Visit the CDC’s website to learn more about Zika transmission.
Zika Virus Symptoms
The most common symptoms of the Zika virus are fever, headache, rash, joint and muscle pain and red eyes. Many people do not show symptoms, so those infected with the virus may not know they have it. There is now a blood test that can be administered by your doctor, and researchers are continuing to search for ways to detect the virus sooner.
While researchers continue to search for additional prevention methods, there is currently no vaccine for Zika. Find more information about the Zika vaccine development here.
Virtually every city in the U.S. is conducting mosquito surveillance activities to ensure residents are safe from the Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases. If you have concerns about the types of mosquitoes living where you live, contact your local mosquito control district. More information can be found through the EPA’s website.
Mosquito control districts also provide information about surveillance, the products they use for mosquito control, application times, the type of mosquitoes in your area and information about their habitat. Cooperating with mosquito control workers in your community by allowing them to conduct surveillance and apply their knowledge to your home and community will help them do their job to protect us from mosquito-borne diseases. You can learn more about how your local mosquito control service performs here, and where your local mosquito control district is located here.
While there have been no locally transmitted cases of the Zika virus in 2017, there were several reported in 2016, and travel-related cases continue to be reported throughout the country.
If you are planning to travel to one of the regions where the Zika virus is a concern, review travel health notices from the CDC before taking off on your trip. If you’re planning on jet setting to an exotic locale for some rest and relaxation, decrease worries about Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses by packing the essentials and leaving your home in good condition by knocking down mosquito-friendly areas in your yard by mowing your lawn and closing all windows and doors. Check places you may least suspect such as tire swings, buckets, pet bowls and flowerpot saucers where water can collect and dump any standing water.