According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which has been linked to brain deformities in babies, is likely to spread to all countries in the Americas except Canada and Chile.
As cases of the mosquito-borne Zika virus continue to spread across Central and South America, as well as in the Caribbean, health experts predict that it is just a matter of time before the disease spreads within the U.S.
What is Zika virus and how it spreads
Zika virus (ZIKV) is a member of the Flaviviridae virus family and the Flavivirus genus. The virus is primarily spread to people through the bite of an infected mosquito. It cannot be spread through human contact. However, a 2013 study found that in some circumstances, the virus could potentially spread through sexual intercourse. It was previously considered to have relatively mild consequences for those infected, but in November Brazil’s health ministry said that the virus was linked to a foetal deformation known as microcephaly, in which babies are born with smaller than normal brains (mothers can pass the infection on to their fetus).
There is no vaccine or medicine to treat Zika.
Symptoms of Zika infection
People infected with Zika virus will have fever, rashes, joint pains, and conjunctivitis within days of being contracted. For most of those infected, the virus causes a short illness lasting between two and seven days. People sick with Zika virus should get plenty of rest, drink enough fluids, and treat pain and fever with common medicines. If symptoms worsen, they should seek medical care and advice. In some rare cases, it can result in serious illness and death.
Counties and territories impacted, according to the Pan American Health Organization:
Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Martin, Suriname and Venezuela, as well as Puerto Rico.
On Friday, the CDC added eight more countries to the list:
Barbados, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guadeloupe, Saint Martin, Guyana, Cape Verde, and Samoa.
How Zika Will Spread to the U.S
Travelers who go to Zika-affected countries could bring the virus to the U.S, where this could be transmitted to mosquitoes that feed on the blood of those infected. The virus-carrying mosquitoes would then pass along the virus when they feed on another person.
How to protect from Zika virus
Pregnant women should avoid travelling to countries listed above. If you do need to travel then prevent getting bitten by mosquitoes:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Use insect repellent approved by the Environmental Protection Agency as directed.
- Use products with a higher percentage of the following ingredients:
- DEET (products include Off!, Cutter, Sawyer and Ultrathon)
- Picaridin, also known as KBR 3023, Bayrepel, and icaridin (products include Cutter Advanced and Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus, as well as Autan outside of the United States)
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or PMD (products include Repel)
- IR3535 (products include Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition and SkinSmart).
Use physical barriers such as screens, closed doors and windows; and sleep under mosquito nets. Sleep in cooled – air-conditioned rooms. It is also important to empty, clean or cover containers that can hold water such as buckets, flower pots, so that places where mosquitoes can breed are removed.
Special attention and help should be given to those who may not be able to protect themselves adequately, such as young children, the sick or elderly.
Natural mosquito repellents
This mosquito repellent recipe involves only two ingredients: lime and clove.
- Slice a lime in half.
- Using clove spice, push the cloves into the lime.
- Leave on a plate to where you want to avoid the mosquitoes.
Works indoors and/or outdoors.