Zika Virus: New Mosquito Disease A Threat To The U.S.

With an outbreak in Brazil confirmed, the zika virus may now pose a threat to the U.S., especially with the mosquito season fast approaching. The zika virus is an Aedes aegypti mosquito-borne disease related to the yellow fever, West Nile and dengue fever.

Brazil’s Ministry of Health has confirmed an outbreak with 16 cases confirmed and as many as 1,200 currently being investigated.

With Caribbean countries such as Jamaica and Guyana providing advisories to their citizens, this single-stranded RNA virus is transmitted through certain species of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which frequently bites in the daytime and in the evening.

The virus got its name from the Zika Forest of Uganda and from 1951 through to 1981 evidence of human infection was reported from African countries such as Uganda, Tanzania, Egypt, Central African Republic, Sierra Leone and Gabon, as well as in parts of Asia including India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

The virus is similar to that of dengue. Symptoms include mild to severe fever, conjunctivitis, transient arthritis/arthralgia and maculo-papular rash. These symptoms usually appear three to 12 days after an infected mosquito bites a person and can last for four to seven days. No death has ever been attributed to the zika virus however, it should be noted that the potential as a virus is currently unknown.

Although it varies each year, the mosquito season starts as early as February in the U.S. for states such as Florida. Shallow standing water provides perfect breeding habitat for mosquitoes. It is usually advised to eliminate standing water in the backyards, around the house, in cutters and ditches in order to discourage mosquitoes from breeding.

Although the zika virus is usually transmitted via the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, however, it was proven that the virus can be sexually transmitted by humans. In 2009 Professor Brian Foy, a university biologist from the Colorado State University, had passed the virus on to his wife after a trip to Senegal. However, the symptoms presented was extremely light.

No vaccine or preventive drug is available for the zika virus.

[Image via Wikipedia]