One insect that we humans have to deal with on a regular basis is the mosquito. However, we shouldn’t just pass them off as normal pests. Mosquitoes have the ability to spread a variety of diseases, which can debilitate a person’s health, or create problems in the future. Case in point – the Zika Virus.
What is the Zika Virus, and Why should People Care?
Also known as Zika disease, Zika fever, or simply Zika, this disease spreads to humans via the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti). It is similar to diseases like yellow fever, dengue, and encephalitis. The virus’ primary symptoms include headaches, joint pain, fever, skin rashes, and conjunctivitis. There are two basic reasons why people should be wary of the Zika virus:
- The symptoms can debilitate a person’s health to an extreme state.
- If the patient is a pregnant woman, the disease can be transferred from mother to child.
Hence, patients should have knowledge of the fever, and understand the diagnoses, and treatment.
Diagnoses and Treatment for the Zika Virus Disease
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), when a patient begins suffering from one or multiple symptoms, they should visit a doctor or a hospital to confirm the infection.
This is particularly important if the patient has either visited an area where Zika can be found or if they have traveled abroad recently. The patient should describe the symptoms, and provide details about any trips they has taken recently. The doctor will take a blood sample, and get it tested for Zika fever, or similar viruses.
When it comes to treatment, there are no specialized medicines to cure a patient of the Zika virus. The only solution is to treat the symptoms. Steps for these include:
- Ensure lots of bed rest.
- Prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of fluids.
- If medications are required, the best choices are paracetamol or acetaminophen. These will help reduce the muscle pain and fever.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) and over-the-counter medicines like aspirin should be avoided.
- If you are already suffering from another condition, always speak to your doctor before taking any new medication.
What can you do to help prevent Mosquitoes and the Zika Virus?
It is important to control mosquitoes, not only because of Zika, but because of West Nile Virus (WNV), encephalitis and other dangerous diseases. Mosquitoes are small, slender, biting flies. They have a long, thin mouth part designed for piercing the skin and sucking out blood. They require water to lay their eggs.
If you have mosquitoes, make sure you wear a good repellent. There are non-DEET products (catnip, citronella, and lemongrass) which are effective for two or three hours before having to be reapplied, but they do not contain potentially dangerous chemicals which is in DEET. Citronella and pennyroyal both work but have side-affects. Pennyroyal may increase the risk of a miscarriage if you are pregnant and citronella has been known to attract female black bears. Test anything you put on your skin on a small portion first to make sure you aren’t allergic to it. Again, never use repellents that contain DEET.
Following are the ways through which you can prevent Mosquitoes from breeding:
- You have to reduce standing water where mosquitoes can breed. Some species of mosquitoes only need a half inch of standing water and eggs of some species can hatch in a week or so. Make sure you change pets drinking water and birdbath water.
- Keep grass cut and shrubbery trimmed to minimize hiding places for adult mosquitoes.
- Make sure there are no old tires on your property. If you have to have some, drill holes in them so water will drain.
- Any plastic or metal containers should be upside down so they can’t collect water.
- If you have plastic tarps or plastic on the ground anywhere, folds in the plastic can gather water. Check frequently.
- Check plants with large leaves that may collect water in axils, where the leaves join the stem. Tip the plant over if in a pot or flush it at least weekly to disrupt any mosquito breeding.
- Check water in bottom of plant containers, including hanging plants.
- Check holes in trees or stumps that may collect water.
- You can add food grade diatomaceous earth to any standing water to kill mosquito larvae.
- It wouldn’t hurt to build a bat house and encourage bats. A single bat can eat several thousand mosquitoes in one night.
- Make sure all screens on doors, windows and vents are functional.
- If you have cots or picnic tables outside that you may use in the evening, mosquito netting will help.
- If you have adult mosquitoes in your grass or bushes, you can spray them with repellents. Catnip is a good repellent according to a report from Iowa State University. Other good repellents include lemongrass, basil, birch, mint, rosemary, spearmint and yarrow. Geraniums or basil plants planted near your doors will repel mosquitoes.