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History of Zika

August 22, 2016

mosquito in south florida

Zika is a relatively new virus that was first identified in 1947 in the Zika Forest of Uganda. The virus was found in monkeys. The first documented report of a human infection occurred in 1964, and since then, occasional cases in humans occurred in Africa and Asia…until recently.

In 2007, the first outbreak of Zika occurred on Yap Island in the Federated States of Micronesia. This was also the first time that Zika was reported outside of Africa and Asia. In October 2013, a large outbreak occurred in French Polynesia, followed by other outbreaks in the Pacific islands of New Caledonia, Cook Islands and Easter Island. In 2015, cases of Zika were reported in several Caribbean Islands and Brazil, progressing to an outbreak that spread to the Americas. The outbreak has continued to evolve in 2016, with the virus being reported in an increasing number of countries. As far as the U.S. goes, primarily the gulf coast and Florida have been impacted by the virus. But cases have been reported as far as Connecticut.

 Zika is spread by a species of mosquito that predominantly attacks during the day. So there's no need to avoid nightly outdoor activities. You should still keep an eye out for symptoms though. Most people infected with Zika will have only very mild symptoms to none at all! Symptoms usually start 1-12 days after the bite of an infected mosquito and last for about 4-8 days. The common symptoms include: rashes, itchiness, mild fever, headache, red eyes, and muscle and joint pains. Less common symptoms include: loss of appetite, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain and dizziness. There is no specific treatment for Zika available. Most people are able to fight off the virus without any treatment. Symptoms like headache and fever can be treated symptomatically. Hospital care is only required in a small number of patients. Typically ones with prior health conditions.

Of all the Zika victims, it is the pregnant women and the unborn children that are at risk the most. The virus can case microcephaly in newborns. Babies born with microcephaly have unusually small heads. With no virus involved, typically cases of microcephaly occurs in 1 out of every 5,000 to 1 out of every 10,000 of all births. Without Zika in the mix, microcephaly is an extremely rare birth defect.

But the Zika virus can cause severe forms of microcephaly in what would typically be normal births. The brain of the child may stop growing and become undersized. The long nerves connecting the eyes and ears to the brain may be damaged. Effected children may suffer from constant seizures or be born with permanently rigid limbs. Microcephaly can also be the result of other infections of the fetus, including German measles, toxoplasmosis (a disease caused by a parasite found in undercooked meat and cat feces) and cytomegalovirus. Microcephaly may also result from alcoholism, drug use or some industrial toxins during pregnancy, or from severe malnutrition of the mother.

Sadly, there is no treatment for the damage caused by microcephaly. The best prevention is protecting yourself from the mosquitoes that vector the Zika virus. Avoiding areas where the disease is concentrated, apply a good insect repellent when going outdoors, and call your local pest control company for a free quote for a mosquito protection program for your yard.


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