Mosquitoes are one of the most annoying things on the planet, right up there with Donald Trump, rapist sympathizers and racist American cops. Apart from that, stats have it that they’re the number one cause of animal related human deaths worldwide!
What makes the ‘little fly’ English for the Spanish word ‘mosquito’ so dangerous? Diseases! Apart from the most common malaria, which kills over 600,000 annually while incapacitating over 200 million for days at a time, there are others including dengue fever, yellow fever, and encephalitis.Other mosquito-borne diseases include dengue fever, yellow fever, and encephalitis.
Recently, another mosquito-borne disease has come into the lime light for its alarming connection to microcephaly, a neurological disorder that results in babies being born with abnormally small heads. It causes severe developmental issues and sometimes death; Zika Virus.
Brazil has seen 404 cases of microcephaly cases in newborns since November, 17 of which have been confirmed to be Zika virus related.
An additional 56 deaths are under investigation, and authorities are investigating 3,670 suspected cases. Other Latin American countries are seeing cases in newborns as well. Colombia reported more than 2,000 pregnant women have tested positive for the virus, while in the United States one Hawaiian baby was born with microcephaly linked to the Zika virus after his mother returned from Brazil. source: CNN
Considering the virus is said to originate from the Zika Mountain region of Uganda after which it is named, we have just cause to be concerned about what this epidemic might mean for us in Africa. As with everything else, the best way to combat our fear and worry is by accumulating as much information about the source as possible.
Did you know?
- About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus become ill (i.e., develop Zika).
- The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) for Zika virus disease is not known, but is likely to be a few days to a week.
- The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week.
- People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika.
- Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for about a week but it can be found longer in some people.
In most people, symptoms of the virus are mild, including fever, headache, rash and possible pink eye. In fact, 80% of those infected never know they have the disease. That’s especially concerning for pregnant women, as this virus has now been shown to pass through amniotic fluid to the growing baby.
How is Zika spread?
- a. It is most commonly transmitted when an Aedes mosquito bites a person with an active infection and then spreads the virus by biting others. Those people become carriers when they have symptoms.
- b. Sexual transmission through an infected person’s semen. There have been no reported cases of an infected woman transmitting the virus through sexual contact.
- c. There have been documented cases of virus transmission during labor, blood transfusion and laboratory exposure.
While the Zika virus has been found in breast milk, it has not been confirmed that nursing is a form of transmission.
Where is Zika now?
The Zika virus is now being locally transmitted in Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Cape Verde, Colombia, Costa Rica, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, St. Martin, Suriname, Samoa, Tonga, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Venezuela, according to the CDC and WHO.
What can you do to protect yourself?
With no treatment or vaccine available, the best you can do is to take all the usual measures you would if it were Malaria and avoid travelling to Zika infested countries for the duration of the outbreak especially if you are pregnant or suspect you might be.
What is being done to stop Zika?
Researchers are hard at work in laboratories around the world trying to create a Zika vaccine. A clinical trial for a Zika virus vaccine could begin this year.
Another prevention effort is OX513A, a genetically modified male Aedes aegypti, dubbed by critics as the “mutant mosquito” or “Robo-Frankenstein mosquito.” The creation of British company Oxitec, OX513A is designed to stop the spread of Zika by passing along a gene that makes his offspring die. Since females only mate once, in theory this slows the growth of the population. Each OX513A carries a fluorescent marker, so scientists can track him. The mosquito has been tested in Brazil, the Cayman Islands, Malaysia and Panama.
The question has been asked as to whether we really need the mosquito in our eco system and if it isn’t way, way past time we eliminated them. What do you think?