Mosquito-borne illnesses such as malaria, Dengue fever and West Nile virus are still prevalent throughout the globe. In addition, newer mosquito-borne viruses such as Zika and Chikungunya are blanketing the news headlines.
What is Zika?
Zika is making the news due to a disturbing connection in the country of Brazil where it has been linked to a rise in a phenomenon called microcephaly. A possible connection between Zika virus infection in pregnant women and subsequent birth defects is being investigated by Doctors in Brazil. Health experts in Puerto Rico have also just announced reports of the first case of Zika and are issuing a warning to travelers.
According to the CDC, Zika virus is transmitted to people from the bite of a mosquito. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week.
Outbreaks of Zika have occurred in areas of Africa, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the Americas. There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika. Travelers can protect themselves from this disease by taking steps to prevent mosquito bites. There are concerns of Zika reaching the United States.
What is Chikungunya?
Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause fever and other unpleasant symptoms. Outbreaks of the chikungunya have occurred in countries such as Africa, Asia, and Europe, as well as the Indian and Pacific Oceans for quite some time. In 2013, chikungunya virus transmissions were reported on islands in the Caribbean. The first locally acquired case of chikungunya was reported July 17, 2014 in Florida.
Signs and Symptoms
Courtesy of the CDC
Zika and Chikungunya viruses are primarily transmitted to people by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Bottom line, it is important to stay protected when enjoying the outdoors in the coming spring/summer months or when traveling to buggy locales. The best method of avoiding infection is by preventing mosquito bites in the first place.
- Wear long-sleeve shirts, pants and socks treated with permethrin. (such as Insect Shield)
- Use insect repellents.
- Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide long lasting protection.
- If you use both sunscreen and insect repellent, apply the sunscreen first and then the repellent.
- Do not spray repellent on the skin under your clothing.
- Use air conditioning or window/door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
- If you are not able to protect yourself from mosquitoes inside your home or hotel, sleep under a mosquito bed net.
- Help reduce the number of mosquitoes outside your home or hotel room by emptying standing water from containers such as flowerpots or buckets.