Health Literacy

Are You Misinformed About the Zika Virus?

Asian Tiger Mosquito

Mosquitoes are a common nuisance throughout the summer in many states across America, prompting widespread concern whenever there’s news of a virus spread by mosquitoes. The Zika virus is one such virus.

Spread by the Aedes genus of mosquitoes, specifically the Asian tiger mosquito, the Zika virus can be spread person-to-person. If a mosquito bites someone with the virus, they can inflict that virus upon another person if they bite them as well — it’s the same way malaria spreads.

Symptoms for those with the Zika virus include headache, rash, arthralgia, myalgia and fever. Although these are unpleasant symptoms — and they are joined by less common symptoms like constipation, abdominal pain and dizziness — no deaths have been reported from the Zika virus and effects on adults are mild. That Zika is reportedly lethal for adults is one of many misconceptions among Americans concerning the Zika virus.

Difference from Ebola

Although some research has shown the potential for Zika to increase microcephaly cases among newborns, no evidence conclusively confirms this. Still, there is strong data to indicate it. In the last four months of 2015, microcephaly cases in Brazil rose to 3,500, a huge jump from the 147 reported cases throughout 2014. Zika’s spread across Brazil is assumed to be responsible.

The lacking global health response to Ebola prompts comparisons, but Zika is quite different. For one, the symptoms for Zika among adults do not compare to the violent symptoms of Ebola, which can be lethal. In fact, Zika often produces mild symptoms comparable to the flu. You won’t feel good at all, but Zika can certainly be controlled through mosquito control procedures. Zika can be extremely weakened by destroying larvae and infected insects, or using insecticide.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control has put Zika at alert level two, but this is primarily for the awareness of poor populations who live off open water sources, which can attract mosquitoes. This, combined with little doctor care, has prompted global disease centers to show great concern, especially since the Ebola crisis was mishandled. Those who are pregnant are also among those at a risk for the disease, as effects on an infant are possible despite no conclusive research confirming this entirely.

Zika Virus Facts

While less lethal than Ebola, Zika still requires attention for those in at-risk areas. Some facts that are good for the potentially misinformed to be aware of include:

  • The disease can be transmitted through sex.
  • There is presently no vaccine for Zika and one is expected to take several years to produce. However, this is primarily because the symptoms of Zika are treatable, so it’s not an urgent priority.
  • You cannot contract Zika from someone’s cough or sneeze. It can only be passed through sexual transmission, blood transfusion and mosquito bites.
  • There’s no evidence that, once the virus has passed, it will affect future pregnancies.

While Zika is certainly a threat, we must discern the many differences between it and the more lethal Ebola virus. Although contagious and transmittable via sex, blood transfusion or mosquito bites, Zika isn’t a large worldwide health concern, as simply touching someone or contracting their germs does not give someone the virus. Still, use discretion if you’re in an area prone to mosquitoes, especially if it’s located close to an open water source.

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Adrienne Erin is a healthcare industry and healthy living writer from Carlisle, Pennsylvania. She loves gadgets, cooking, and speaking French. You can follow her on LinkedIn.

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