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Why the Mosquito-Borne Zika Virus Began Capturing Our Attention in February

While the existence of the mosquito-borne virus known as Zika virus is not new, it captured a lot of firsts in the news during the month of February.   Throughout the mosquito season, Bite-Lite Natural Mosquito Repellent Candle company will continue to provide commentary of the mosquito-borne outbreak as we learn more.

On the first of February, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the mosquito-borne Zika virus “a public health emergency of international concern” based on outbreaks concentrated in the Americas and the Islands, including Brazil, French Polynesia, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Jamaica.  On February 20th, the WHO has estimated that 3 million to 4 million people across the Americas will be infected with the virus in the next year.

On February 4, 2016, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed that the first case of Zika virus in the U.S. has been sexually transmitted by a returning traveler bitten by a mosquito in Venezuela.   On February 23, 2016, we learned that the CDC was exploring 14 new cases that had reportedly been transmitted sexually.  Since then, the CDC has reported 107 cases in 25 states and the District of Columbia related to travel incidents abroad.  According to a chart from the CDC, Florida has had the most cases reported at 28, while New York had 17, and Texas 13.    No locally acquired vector borne cases have been reported in the U.S.  so far, but that has not been the case in the U.S. Territories; Puerto Rico has reported 34 cases, American Samoa 4, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, 1.

 

What makes this outbreak concerning?     Along with the recent outbreaks in the Americas and South America came the reporting of a recent cluster of cases of microcephaly (children born with small heads) and other neurological abnormalities (Guillame-Barre Syndrome).   While there is no scientific proof yet to link the virus to these conditions, the health agencies' timely responses are a coordinated effort to track, research and respond to the virus and its effects.    It is felt that their efforts will make them more prepared than they were when Ebola hit the news and our part of the world in 

What do we know about the Zika virus at this date?   Zika is primarily spread by a mosquito called the Aedes aegypti.   This mosquito is rampant in hot climates, and bites during the day.   One is infected by getting bitten by a mosquito that has the disease.   The risk of a major outbreak in the United States is considered lower than in other parts of the world because of effective mosquito-control programs and air-conditioning.   However, as we learned this month, world travel can bring the mosquito-borne disease upon us.

For most people, the illness from the virus is usually mild.   According to the CDC, you may experience fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes) muscle pain, and headache.   You are unlikely a candidate for the hospital, and death is rare.  Authorities say that the virus can remain in the blood for a week or more, which is the time that it can be apparently transmitted.     

At present, it appears the most significant risk is to pregnant women and those women who want to get pregnant because of the reports of birth defects of microcephaly.    Until more is known, the CDC continues to advise that these women practice safe sex (use condoms) with their male sexual partners who have travelled to a Zika-infested area.  On February 28th, there was even advice that pregnant women not fly to countries with the virus, including Brazil which is the host for the Summer Olympics.

While a vaccine or an effective treatment could be a long way off, it has been reported that clinical trials could begin this year.   In the meantime, the health agencies recommend that precautions be taken until more is known about the virus.   Besides the above recommendations, the three D’s remain in effect that have been outlined on Bite-Lite Natural Mosquito Repellent Candle company’s news pages before, but it is worth spelling out under the circumstances.

Drain: Empty out water containers regularly.    Note that day time mosquitoes have been found to breed even in water vases.  

Dress: Wear long sleeves, long pants, and light colored, loose fitting clothing.

Defend: Properly apply approved repellents such as DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon-eucalyptus.  For evening ambience, don’t forget to light your Bite-Lite® Natural Mosquito Repellent Candles at  your favorite outdoor event!

For the most up to date information about mosquito-borne Zika virus, you can follow http://www.cdc.gov/zika/index.html.

 

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