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The Bug Blog

Facts Californians need to know about Zika

August 7, 2017
by Brian Olson, CEO, the bugman

Zika is tricky. There hasn't been an outbreak of mosquitoes carrying the virus in California, but there have been 479 Californians that have contracted Zika elsewhere, and three babies in California whose mothers were infected with the virus, and born with birth defects. Many people infected with Zika won’t have symptoms or will only have mild symptoms, making hospitalization unlikely.

Here are the facts you need to know:

Most common symptoms: Fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes. Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. Symptoms can last for several days to a week.

The Zika virus is spread mainly through mosquito bites. Also, people can get it by having intercourse with someone who is infected, even if they don't have symptoms. Spread is possible in other ways, including a pregnant mother to her unborn baby, and through donated blood or organs.

Pregnant women should consider postponing travel to any area with Zika. If you are pregnant and have already traveled to a Zika area, talk to your doctor or other healthcare provider, even if you don’t feel sick. Zika infection during pregnancy may cause birth defects.

The Zika outbreak began in Brazil last year but then spread to dozens of countries, including the United States. Mosquitoes in parts of Florida and Texas began transmitting the virus.

The disease is transmitted only by Aedes mosquitoes, which aren’t native to the Americas. But the insects showed up in El Monte in shipments of bamboo from Southeast Asia about 15 years ago. The local vector control agency assigned seven people to work full time to try to get rid of the incredibly resilient bugs. The mosquitoes are now found in 12 counties in California, with particularly dense infestations in the San Gabriel Valley.

Aedes mosquitoes are so intractable because spraying pesticides doesn’t work on them as well as it does on the Culex mosquitoes that Californians are more familiar with.

The insects need only a few drops of water to reproduce, and can even survive inside people’s homes. Their eggs can tolerate months of drought, waiting for rain to hatch.

Pilot projects in El Monte and the Central Valley have tried to curb mosquito populations by releasing male Aedes aegypti that are infected with a bacteria that prevents their eggs from hatching. The efforts had positive results, but these new methods will likely require federal approval and take several months before they’re widespread.

Zika symptoms are usually too mild to make someone seek out medical treatment, and only 20% of those infected have symptoms at all. Since few go to their doctors, then few are tested.

Californians: Be prepared by taking responsible measures against mosquitoes in general.


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