Mosquito season in Alabama typically runs from April through October. While that has always meant uncomfortable itching and generous application of Calamine lotion, the past few mosquito seasons have brought a much more serious threat. During the summer of 2016, the US confirmed the first case of the Zika virus that wasn’t carried in from another country. Zika is spread through infected mosquitoes, and officials are bracing for what could be a growing threat, especially in the southern United States.
What Do We Know About Zika?
The Zika virus is typically spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Zika can also be spread through sexual contact, as well as from a pregnant mother to her unborn child. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Zika symptoms include fever, rash, headache, joint pain, conjunctivitis (red eyes), and muscle pain. These symptoms generally don’t last longer than a week, often go unnoticed, and usually don’t require any medical intervention. As with diseases like Chickenpox, once you’ve been infected, you are unlikely to become reinfected with Zika.
Zika and Pregnancy
In early 2015, Brazil experienced an outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus. By fall of that year, Brazil was also experiencing an increase in infants born with microcephaly, which the CDC defines as a birth defect where the baby’s head is much smaller than expected. Microcephaly causes a variety of problems, including hearing loss, developmental delays, problems with balance and movement, and impaired vision. These symptoms are often severe and are life long for affected children. Zika infection in the mother during pregnancy is a proven cause of microcephaly, along with other birth defects. The CDC strongly encourages women of childbearing age to avoid becoming pregnant if there is a chance that they have the Zika virus, and for pregnant women to take all possible precautions to avoid becoming infected.
Control the Mosquito Population
To prevent the local spread of Zika, take steps to control the mosquito population where you live. Since mosquitoes typically lay their eggs in water, it’s important to eliminate sources of standing water, including outdoor vases, pet water bowls, flowerpots, pool covers, and rain barrels. Either get rid of the item altogether, turn it upside down, or empty and scrub it on a weekly basis.
Protect Yourself from Mosquitoes
If you are considering starting a family, avoid travelling to areas where the Zika virus is prevalent. When you’re outside during mosquito season, protect yourself with a thorough application of DEET-containing repellent. If you’re also applying sunscreen, apply that first, then the bug spray. Clothing should be loose and should completely cover your arms and legs. Some sporting goods retailers carry clothing specifically manufactured to prevent mosquito bites.
The doctors at Dr. Braden Richmond’s Special Care for Women are available to answer any questions you may have. Visit us online at http://specialcareforwomen.com/.