The Zika Virus is a mosquito borne pathogen that has been spreading across the western hemisphere since late 2015.
However, in the last few weeks, the disease’ spread has accelerated, reaching Haiti and Barbados within the space of two weeks. Though the disease carries mild to moderate symptoms and clears up in a few weeks, the effects it has on unborn babies are potentially fatal.
Zika’s symptoms are generally mild and characterized by acute onset of fever, rash, joint pains, or conjunctivitis. Symptoms usually last from several days to 1 week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon, and fatalities are rare.
Zika’s effect on unborn babies is far more serious, leading to an abnormal smallness of the head or cranium in babies. Zika has also been attributed to stillborn babies and miscarriages.
How do you protect yourself from this disease?
For starters the Zika virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the same mosquito that transmits dengue and the chikungunya virus that ravaged the Caribbean two years ago. This mosquito most commonly bite at dusk and dawn, indoors, in shady areas, or when the weather is cloudy. Here are a few ways to reduce your chances of contracting the disease:
Remove all stagnant water and containers that can cause water to stagnate – Aedes aegypti mosquitos breed where water can collect and stagnate, this can range from flower pots to even leaves that are folded in a way to allow water to collect. Ensure that flower pots are properly drained and if water storage containers are not being used ensure that they are turned upside down to prevent water from collecting.
Wear long clothing – In the cooler months of the year this is a great way to avoid being bitten by mosquito. Loose fitting trousers and shirts are more comfortable.
Use deet based insect repellents – The chemical deet is a well known insect repellent and it has been used for years to protect against mosquito bites. Spray repellents containing deet on bare skin while ensuring that the spray is even and not too saturated.
Plant mosquito repelling herbs – There are many herbs that naturally repels mosquito. Lemon grass is one of the most common insect repelling plants and its citronella derivative has been used for years to repel mosquitos. Basil is another plant that is effective at repelling mosquitos when planted in pots around the house.
Peppermint – Peppermint repels mosquitoes when crushed and such can be used as a rub to protect against bites. The oils from the leaves also act as a soothing agent when rubbed on skin bitten by mosquitoes.
As we head into the warmer months the likelihood of the Zika virus spreading becomes even more possible. Follow the above steps and you will reduce the possibility of you contracting the disease.