What New Jersey Residents Should Know About the Zika Virus & its Prevention
Zika Comes to New Jersey
In an article published on September 14, 2016, on News 12 New Jersey, the total number of cases of Zika virus identified in the state was pegged at 127, representing an increase of 30 from almost a month ago. While the state’s Health Department announced that all the cases were travel related, the reality is that once the virus arrives in an area, it is likely to spread. For now, the highest reported cases of Zika were in Bergen County, at 25, followed closely by Passaic County, at 21.
As of September 13, 2016, the total number of travel-related cases reported across the United States stood at 2,920, with another 43 being locally acquired infections, said USA Today’s NorthJersey.com. This is cause for concern, more so because September is the peak season for the Asian Tiger mosquito, the species that has been identified as the one carrying the Zika virus and thriving all across New Jersey. The rains and warm temperatures create the perfect breeding ground for these mosquitoes, also known as Aedes albopictus.
Why Should We Worry About the Zika Virus?
The Zika virus, a mosquito borne flavivirus, was first identified in 1947 in Uganda and that too in monkeys. It was only in 1952 that the first human cases were identified in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. Unfortunately, the cases of human infections were found all across Africa and Asia from the 1960s to the 1980s. Following this, cases were reported in the Americas as well. In July 2015, the association between this viral infection and Guillain-Barré syndrome was discovered in Brazil, following which, the infection was also linked to microcephaly in October 2015, according to an article on WebMD.
The two aspects that make this virus a cause for concerns is that firstly, it is carried by a species of mosquitoes that the CDC terms as “aggressive daytime biters,” although they can also bite at night. Secondly, there is as yet no vaccine or drug for the virus, according to information released by the Centers for Disease Control. This means that we are most vulnerable during a time that we cannot avoid going out and fulfilling our daily responsibilities. The only way to counter the problem is to know as much about it as possible, especially the means of prevention.
Zika: Symptoms & Diagnosis
The virus is most often passed on from a pregnant woman to her unborn fetus, leading to several types of birth defects. According to information released by the World Health Organization (WHO), the incubation period for the virus is still unclear but is likely to be a few days. The symptoms are usually quite similar to other mosquito-borne viral diseases, such as dengue, and include skin rashes, fever, conjunctivitis, headaches, malaise, and joint and muscle pain. The symptoms tend to be mild and can last for about two to seven days.
However, research has revealed that the virus can also cause Guillain-Barré syndrome and microcephaly, and studies are ongoing to investigate whether the Zika virus is also linked to other neurological ailments. The virus is usually transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito, although sexual transmission is also possible. For now, research is being conducted to investigate whether the virus can also be transmitted via blood transfusions and other modes.
Diagnosis is usually based on the individual’s symptoms, test results and recent travel history. Urine and blood test are used to confirm the infection, although the medical practitioner might recommend other tests as well to rule out several types of viral infection.
Prevention of Zika
Given that there still is no vaccine for the virus, the only way to prevent infection is to protect yourself from mosquito bites. According to information provided by Heritage Pest Control, you can keep yourself and your family protected with some simple measures, such as:
- Wearing appropriate clothing – While it might be tempting to sunbathe before fall really sets in, the best course of action is to wear long sleeved shirts with long pants. This way there is minimally exposed skin for the mosquito.
- Use mosquito repellants – While choosing a bug repellent, make sure it is registed with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and contains at least one active ingredient from among DEET, IR3535, picaridin, para-methane-diol or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Always follow the instructions on the label. These repellents have been proven safe even for pregnant and breastfeeding women, although they are not recommended for use on infants below the age of 2 months.
- Keep your home safe – Use door and window screens or remain within air conditioned surroundings that keep mosquitoes out. For newborns and young babies, consider using mosquito netting in their cribs and strollers. But most importantly, make sure you eliminate all breeding grounds for mosquitoes inside and around your home. Standing water, even in tiny quantities, such as a bottle cap filled with rain water, can provide more than sufficient space for breeding. So, make sure that there is no standing water in your yard or neighborhood and all water containers are well covered against these pests.
- Safe sex – If you or your partner have been diagnosed with the Zika virus, the best way to prevent sexual transmission is to either use a condom or abstain till the doctor gives you the green signal.
- Call in the professionals – Of course, the best thing to do is to first have pest control done in and around your home. Call in the professionals to make sure a thorough job is done.
If you still have worries about the Zika virus, you can call the New Jersey Department of Health’s 24-hour hotline dedicated just for this at 1-800-962-1253.