The past couple of weeks I’ve had more than a few questions about what Zika virus is and what it means to those of us in Denton County.
The Zika virus is spread to people primarily through mosquito bites. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her unborn child. Infection during pregnancy can cause a certain birth defect (microcephaly – a sign of incomplete brain development). Blood transfusions and sexual contact can also spread this disease.
As of mid-August, Denton County had three reported cases of the Zika virus. (Dallas County had 24 and Tarrant County had 14. Texas had 108 total reported cases with one death in Harris County.)
Many people who contract the Zika virus may not have any symptoms or may have only mild symptoms. The most common Zika symptoms are a fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes (conjunctivitis). They may or may not have muscle pain and/or headaches. (Sounds like an advertisement for the common cold to me.) This will last several days to a week.
Again, most people may never know they been infected. Zika hangs out in your blood for about a week. If you think you have Zika, see your doctor or healthcare provider for a diagnosis. If you have it, there is not specific medicine or vaccine for Zika virus. You’ll probably be told to get plenty of rest and drink fluids. Again, if you have questions, please see your doctor or healthcare provider.
What can we do? First of all, prevent mosquito bites by using an EPA-registered insect repellent (www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/find-insect-repellent-right-you). With the cooler weather we’ve experienced recently, use window and/or door screens, or make sure your windows and doors stay closed to keep the mosquitoes out of your home. Wear lightweight, loose fitting clothing that covers your skin.
Finally, reduce the places in the yard and your community where mosquitos breed. It doesn’t take much water (a couple of tablespoons), some organic matter (grass clippings, leaves, etc.) and warm weather to have the right “recipe” for growing a batch of hungry, blood-sucking mosquitos. (By the way, the mosquitos that are feeding on you are female.) Beware of using mosquito control devices. Some of these devices cost hundreds (even thousands) of dollars and may only offer marginal control or draw the mosquitos to your property! Call our office at 940-349-2882 if you have questions.
There are two types of mosquitos that we worry about in Texas. The first is Aedes aegypti and the second Aedes albopictus. A. aegypti is most likely to spread Zika, dengue, chikungunya, and other viruses and are more likely to feed on people. These females will take a blood meal during the day just as well as in the evening/nights. A. albopictus live in cooler climates and tend to feed on animals. Because they feed on animals, they are less likely to transmit the viruses listed above.
Lastly, there is a website out there that is saying that the pesticides the government is spraying to kill Zika mosquitos might be hurting you. In particular, they reference a 2014 study by scientists at the University of California, saying that pesticides increased the risk of children developing autism. I pulled the study (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22534084) and the authors say, “Conclusive replicated findings have yet to appear on any specific exposure…,” and, “…epidemiologic studies in humans with exceptionally high exposures can identify which pesticide classes are of greatest concern, and studies focused on gene × environment are needed to determine if there are susceptible [types of people] at greater risk from pesticide exposures.”
In the end, use non-biased, research-based information to make your decisions. If you have questions, contact our office at 940.349.2882 or your local county AgriLife Extension office.
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension provides equal opportunities in its programs and employment to all persons, regardless of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, genetic information, veteran status, sexual orientation, or gender identity.