Be wary, but not terrified
While you’re probably hearing about Zika all over the news, it’s only the newest reason to protect your family from the dangers of mosquitos. From West Nile virus and elephantiasis to dengue and yellow fevers, mosquitos have been plaguing humans (and pets like dogs and horses) for centuries. So where did Zika come from? And why is it only now a global concern?
While we are not experts in infectious disease, we are experts in mosquitos and effective mosquito control. We can help educate the public on how to avoid contact with mosquitos whether at home or abroad, and how to diminish or eliminate mosquito breeding grounds. The information in this article has been pulled from reliable news outlets, which are listed at the end of the article.
The Zika virus is discovered in 1947, but won’t cause global concern for nearly 70 years. Starting in Africa, the virus spread to Asia, the Pacific Islands and has now reached the Americas. The first documented case in humans isn’t seen until 1952.
While there have been outbreaks in the past, Zika has only recently been linked with microcephaly, a birth defect characterized by an abnormally small head that can cause developmental issues, which is what has the global health community so concerned.
Forty-nine cases of the Zika virus are confirmed in Micronesia in the Pacific Islands, which means it has spread beyond Africa and Asia.
The French Polynesian islands see thousands of cases of Zika and while many are hospitalized, no deaths are reported.
The first case of local transmission, which means that mosquitos in the area have been infected with Zika and are spreading it to people, is confirmed on Easter Island by public health authorities.
Health workers in northern Brazil report a new disease that causes lesions and red spots. Bahia state confirms the disease is the Zika virus from Africa. Brazil’s Ministry of Health confirms that Zika has spread to Brazil.
Neurologist Vanessa van der Linden identifies “Patient Zero”—a twin with microcephaly.
By this time, 2,700 babies in Brazil are born with microcephaly—a dramatic increase from cases recorded in 2014.
Government lab confirms Zika virus has been found in a pregnant woman’s amniotic fluid. Many government and health officials in Central and Latin America warn women not to become pregnant.
The first local transmission of Zika is reported in the Caribbean.
Jan 15, 2016
Public health notices are issued by health officials in the US and Canada, which urge pregnant women to consider posting travel to affected areas “out of an abundance of caution.”
Jan 20, 2016
Brazil’s health minister reports that there are 3,893 suspected cases of microcephaly since October 2015. Colombia asks couples to avoid pregnancy for six to eight months.
Jan 22, 2016
El Salvador’s government also asks women to avoid pregnancy until 2018.
Jan 26, 2016
Brazil is “badly losing the battle against the [Aedes aegypti] mosquito,” Brazil’s health minister tells a Brazilian newspaper as he announces new measures to stop the spread of Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases.
Jan 28, 2016
At a special meeting in Geneva, WHO director-general Margaret Chan says Zika is “spreading explosively” and announces that WHO will hold an emergency meeting to discuss the virus’s threat level.
Feb 1, 2016
Zika-linked birth defects are declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization. Though researchers are working toward them, there is currently no vaccine or cure.
Feb 2, 2016
Jamaica reports first case of Zika Virus
Feb 3, 2016
French health minister Marisol Touraine tells reporters that Martinique and French Guiana have 100 confirmed and 2,500 potential cases of Zika since mid-December. A small number of cases are also reported in Guadeloupe and Saint Martin.
Ireland reports its first two cases of mosquito-borne Zika. The Health Service Executive of Ireland issues a statement saying that neither patient is pregnant and the unrelated cases had recently returned to Ireland from countries where the virus is prevalent, though they declined to identify either patient.
Argentina confirms a second case of Zika, the patients are a 23-year-old woman who, officials say, was infected in Colombia and a 68-year-old man who was also infected abroad.
A spokesman for the WHO makes a statement saying it’s time for science to “step up” and tackle “the very concerning” cases of microcephaly that could be linked to Zika—though no definitive link has been proven. Latin American health ministers meet in Uruguay to determine why Zika is being linked to birth defects in Brazil, but not in other countries like Mexico.
Florida Governor Rick Scott declares a health emergency for four counties in the state—Miami-Dade, Lee, Hillsborough and Santa Rosa—where at least nine cases have been detected. “We know that we must be prepared for the worst even as we hope for the best,” says Scott. However, officials believe all nine cases are from people who contracted the disease while abroad.
How to prevent mosquitos
- Eliminate areas of standing water. Mosquitos lay eggs in water and only need about a half-inch of water to breed. Think birdbaths, plastic pools (for babies or pets), flowerpots, grill covers.
- Minimize outdoor activity, especially between dusk and dawn as this is when mosquitos are most active. If you must be outdoors, wear long sleeve shirts and pants and use an insect repellant.
- Install or repair all window and door screens—even tiny tears or holes.
- Reconsider travel plans to affected areas
- Install a mosquito misting system to repel mosquitos from your property