The recently reported cases of the Zika virus in Houston has commanded our full attention. Not only Houston, but across the U.S., Zika virus has been detected for the first time outside of South America, Africa, and Asia. There are some tips included in this article on how you can protect yourself and your family, including latest prevention strategies for these incurable mosquito-borne viruses.
The back story: Zika virus initially only occurred in Africa and Asia near the equator. Since then, the virus spread eastward across the Pacific to French Polynesia, then to South America, Central America, and the Caribbean and is now considered a pandemic. The virus is transmitted through mosquito bites in infected Aedes species mosquitoes. Aedes mosquitoes become infected when they bite someone already infected. The mosquitos then lay their eggs in stagnant bodies of water, usually found in flower pots, bird baths, buckets, or animal bowls. These types of mosquitos also prefer to bite humans, and are aggressive in the daytime.
What Can I Do To Prevent This?
The most important modes of prevention of Zika virus in Houston:
- Avoid travel to places where the Zika virus has been detected (find an updated list, here).
- Use a mosquito barrier system in your yard to protect your family and pets while at home.
- Empty standing water containers so infected mosquitoes do not have a place to lay their eggs.
- Use personal mosquito repellent sprays, especially when visiting mosquito-infested areas such as wooded parks.
Unfortunately, there is no vaccine or cure for the Zika virus. If pregnant when infected, microcephaly may be present in the baby, a condition that causes an underdeveloped brain and an abnormally small head. It’s estimated that the cost to care for each child born with this defect is anywhere from 1 million dollars up to 1o million dollars over the lifetime of the child.
What Is Being Done?
There has been a method to combat this pandemic by modifying the mosquito itself. This has attracted a lot of criticism from people that are concerned about what the impact on the ecosystem will be. The FDA has fast-tracked its approval of this method. How it works is the lab insects are bred so that over time they could kill off much of the local mosquito population by passing on a gene fatal to any offspring they have with wild females. Oxitec, Ltd. is the company that is genetically modifying these insects.