One more reason to hate mosquitos

Dr. Ratner

The Zika virus. Transmitted by mosquitos. Spreading across the globe.


It could easily be a Hollywood movie plot. Of course, it is not. It is real. But lets take a look at some of the truth - the facts - relating to the Zika virus.


The Zika virus is transmitted by mosquitos. After being exposed symptoms likely appear within a few days to a few weeks. Only one in five people exposed to the virus will develop symptoms. These usually include fever, joint pain, muscle pain, rash, red eyes and headache. These symptoms may last up to a week.  The virus may remain in the blood of infected people for a few days. According to the CDC, severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon, and death is rare.


Zika virus is transmitted through mosquitos, the same mosquitos that can transmit the Dengue and Chikungunya viruses. Like most mosquitos they live near standing water including buckets, ponds, animal dishes and flower pots. They are more active in the daytime and actually prefer to bite people. Mosquitos become infected when they bite an infected human, and transmit the disease when they later bite another human.


Where is the Zika virus? Prior to 2015 there have been outbreaks in Africa and Asia, but the areas of current outbreaks include South America including Brazil, most of Central America, and Mexico and Puerto Rico. It is likely that some areas of the United States will experience an outbreak as well. 


There is specific testing for the Zika virus only through the CDC, but not easily available commercial testing. If there is a suspected infection than the treatment is supportive. Plenty of rest, plenty of fluids, tylenol not aspirin or ibuprofen (NSAIDS) for fever and muscle ache. Try not to get bitten by additional mosquitos so the disease is not passed on. It is not passed on directly from one person to another.


There is some concern that there may be associated birth defects specifically microcephaly (when the head is too small) or other brain abnormalities. This concern was raised as there have increased birth rates with children with these disorders in Brazil during the Zika virus outbreak. More research is underway to determine if this is an association, or a cause and effect relationship.


Like most other mosquito borne infections, it is best to reduce the chances of getting infected in the first place. Long sleeves, long pants, getting rid of standing water, using repellent, using screen doors and windows, all can help to reduce the chance of being bitten.


Recently I have started rating some of the illnesses and injuries I write about on a scale from No treatment to Routine Primary Care to Urgent Care to Emergency Department. This one rates cleanly in the Urgent Care category.


Would I rather avoid  a Zika infection? Yes. Is it the likely end of the world Hollywood thriller scenario? Probably not.