Zika Virus: What You Need to Know
The Buzz on Another Mosquito-Borne Disease
You may have seen the recent news headlines about Zika virus, a rare mosquito-borne disease that has made its way to the United States. While there are no documented cases to date associated with local transmission in the continental United States, Zika virus has been reported in travelers returning from other infected countries – and cases continue to pop up on a near daily basis. Read on to learn more about Zika virus.
Q: How is Zika virus transmitted?
A: Zika virus is spread through the bite of an infected Aedes genus of mosquitoes, which is the same type of mosquito that carries dengue fever and chikungunya. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which live predominantly in tropical and sub-tropical regions, are the primary carriers, but Aedes albopictus mosquitoes might also transmit the virus. This species, commonly known as the Asian tiger mosquito, is found much farther north in the summer.
Q: Where is Zika virus found?
A: Zika virus was first identified in 1947 in Africa as an infection of rhesus monkeys in the Zika forest of Uganda. It was later confirmed to cause human disease in 1968. For many years infections appeared to be both rare events and limited to Africa, India, Southeast Asia and western Pacific Island. More recently, epidemics have spread across the Eastern Pacific and into south and Central America. There have also been reports of Zika virus cases in Illinois, Florida, Texas and New York, but all of the individuals obtained the disease while traveling to infected countries.
Q: What are the chances of an outbreak in the United States?
A: While the probability of infected mosquitoes traveling to the United States is unlikely, there is reason to believe that Zika virus can spread locally. If more imported cases continue to surface, especially as the summer months near, it may result in human-to-mosquito-to-human spread of the virus in areas of the country where mosquito vectors are present. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other organization are monitoring the situation closely.
Q: What are the symptoms of Zika virus?
A: In general, most cases cause no symptoms. Only about 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus become ill. Those who do develop symptoms often experience several days of mild headaches, fever, rash, conjunctivitis (red eyes) and joint pain.