Mosquitoes and the Zika virus have been hot news items recently. Here is some information to help. While we don’t have a tropical climate here in Phoenix, we still have a mosquito problem.
What does that mean for Zika?
What is the Zika virus?
Airborne illnesses usually grab most of the attention as it is the most difficult to avoid, but this year we are on high alert about the blood-borne mosquito virus called Zika. This virus carries very similar traits to dengue and yellow fever viruses, but with one major twist. The name originates from the location that it was first discovered in Zika, Uganda. But back when it was found in 1947, it wasn’t fully understood as a major threat beyond the flu-like symptoms.
It took until about 2013 before the Zika virus made its presence known to the Western World. In early 2015, Brazil was on full-alert about this disease being a much larger threat than first reported. Part of the reason why this virus was able to go unnoticed for some time is that the initial symptoms were not out of the ordinary with mild fevers, headaches, fatigue, and etc. Couple the relatively benign symptoms with a complete failure on the Americas to control the populations of the mosquito species that are able to carry the virus while ignoring the cries of the poor, and it comes as no surprise that this Zika virus was horribly underestimated and now poses a great threat to multiple countries.
How Zika is Spread?
The Aedes aegypti mosquito is the only species that is capable of carrying the virus, along with yellow fever. To be completely accurate, the females are the only mosquitos that feed on blood. They use the blood to sustain reproduction, while the males have no use for blood and instead feed off of plants. The Zika virus lives in the female’s gut and is injected into the host every time it feeds.
The Aedes aegypti is a very resilient mosquito when it comes to breeding, but it is limited in the scope of climates that it can survive in. Unlike most mosquitos, this species only needs just a palm-sized volume of water to hatch their eggs. It thrives in warmer climates though, so the biggest threats geographically in the United States are Gulf states, especially Florida, but as climate change has stretched the months of summer longer and produced more tropical-like conditions as you travel further north, the territory that the Zika virus has been limited to has grown considerably.
It is also worth noting that the “Asian tiger mosquito” is able to host the Zika virus with limited success, but that does open up the threat of the virus to states in the north.
How do you know if you have the Zika virus?
This is a major hurdle that is not easy to overcome as this disease spreads. The symptoms range from a typical head-cold to a mild form of the flu. Some people don’t develop any identifiable symptoms at all. You can’t even get yourself tested at the hospital out of pure paranoia because your blood or urine sample must be shipped to a special laboratory to be tested. The testing itself is imperfect, as well. Zika virus closely resembles dengue and yellow fever, so for those who live in parts of the world that still struggle with those viruses, it may take multiple tests to confirm. There are other techniques that are more expensive and more involved to help eliminate false-positives, but even those are not guaranteed.
Zika virus’ Impact on Pregnancies
Scientists are still in the early stages of understanding the virus and how it leads to the brain damage that has been documented for the past year, but they know that it attacks the fetal nerve cells that provide the building blocks for brain development. It crosses the mother’s placenta and interferes with the radial gilal cells’ ability to form the foundation of a healthy and protected skull. The diminutive skulls of babies is a disorder that almost certainly causes permanent disability for the rest of their lives. The condition of microcephaly, outside of what is caused by the Zika virus, is not always this way, in fact a degree of microcephaly occurs in roughly 1 in 10,000 child births and 15% of those cases produce no measurable brain damage at all.
Microcephaly caused by the Zika virus is an extreme case that deforms the brain tissue, stunts its growth, and forfeits basic motor skills, among other life-long abnormalities.
What can you do to help with mosquito control in Phoenix AZ?
While we don’t get a lot of rain here in Metro phoenix, it’s important to check around your home and office to see where some standing water has collected. Be sure to check pet toys and children’s toys too. Left outside they can easy hold rain water and become a breeding area for mosquitoes.
You can also contact us, at Desert Buster Pest Service, if you need help with additional mosquito control measures.
Here are additional websites if you want additional Zika information…