[HEALTHY LIVING] Mosquito-Borne Diseases: Zika

by Evalyne

Summer is OFFICIALLY HERE! Unfortunately, Texas’ scorching heat welcomes our favorite pest, the mosquito. Along with their unwanted, yet expected presence, comes mosquito-transmitted infections, such as: West Nile, Zika, Chikungunya, Malaria, Dengue, etc.

I’m about to get my nerd on here … No really, I wasn’t joking. This is me when I was finishing my thesis on mosquito-transmitted infections. I was truly happy.

I’ve decided to touch on the most known and “heard about” mosquito-borne disease. Although, our first thoughts when dealing with mosquito-transmitted infections are that it’s a tropical world and third world problem. We always hear about how mosquitoes cause millions of Malaria cases and deaths all over the world. However, with global warming and rising temperatures, many of the mosquito-transmitted infections that were once thought of as only in tropical climates are making its way to the United States. Some of these diseases are already here. For example, Dengue is found throughout the and widespread throughout Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. However, Dengue outbreaks have happened in southern parts of the United States and Hawaii.

I wanted to provide a quick overview of these diseases for awareness, educational purposes and for future reference. So, let’s take a quick “bite” out of these mosquito-borne illnesses.

INTRODUCTION TO THE ZIKA

Although, still extremely rare in the United States, the mosquito-transmitted infection, Zika, is still worth discussing. Common knowledge over this mosquito-transmitted illness grew in popularity the last few years, due to the rising cases and known risks to pregnant women and their developing fetus. Zika was first reported in 2015 in the Americas. There was a little bit of panic amongst expecting mothers communities, because of it. Fortunately, according to the CDC, in 2018 and 2019 there has not been any reports of Zika virus in the United States.

Zika is not known to be a fatal disease. Symptoms may be nonexistent or often mild. However, there are cases that could require hospitalization. Zika can also cause Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), which involves the nervous and immune systems. This could lead to nerve cell damage, muscle weakness and paralysis.

The Common Zika Symptoms include:

• Fever
• Rash
• Arthralgias (Joint Pain)
• Myalgias (Muscle Pain)
• Conjunctivitis (Reddish-Pinkish eyes)
• Itchy Eyes
• Headache

What we truly worry about is transmission. As mentioned prior, a pregnant woman can pass Zika to her fetus or at the time of birth. Zika can cause microcephaly to the baby. Microcephaly is a rare disorder, in which, the baby’s head is unusually smaller than expected. It is associated with developmental delays, intellectual disability, speech and motor issues, and other neurologic abnormalities.

Congenital Zika Syndrome includes:

• Microcephaly
• Severe fetal brain defects

A co-worker of mine recently underwent a scary situation involving a Zika-affected area. Being a newlywed for her honeymoon she and her husband traveled to a beautiful, tropical, but Zika-affected destination. A vacation where she became pregnant and where she and her husband were bit by multiple mosquitoes. Because of that she had Zika testing and was monitored during her pregnancy for possible mother-to-baby spread. Thank God, everything all turned out well. It is sometimes disregarded or forgotten that sexual intimacy can also be a risk, as Zika can be transmitted via intercourse. So either one of them could’ve been infected with the Zika virus and it spread to the other, ultimately resulting in risks to the fetus.

This doesn’t mean avoid vacationing in all tropical areas. All of this is just to take precaution and provide awareness when traveling, anything to help avoid Zika transmission that would result in unfortunate consequences. There are no medications or vaccinations for Zika, only prevention.

Prevention
• Avoid mosquito bites, use insect repellent and wear protective clothing.
• Use protection during, or refrain, from intercourse if you have traveled and been exposed to a Zika-infested area.

o Men: After travel to an area with risk of Zika, wait at least 3 months after your return, or after symptoms start if you develop symptoms, before trying to conceive or have unprotected sex with your partner.

• If you are a woman trying to conceive, avoid traveling to an area with Zika risk, and if you already have, avoid conceiving for 2-3 months upon return.
• If you are pregnant avoid traveling to areas where there are Zika outbreaks.
• Prevent mosquito bites after you return from a Zika-infested area at least 3 weeks, to avoid spreading Zika.

If you think you have been exposed to or believe you may have Zika, talk to your doctor or other healthcare provider as soon as you can.

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