It’s early March. Why write about Zika Virus now?
I killed my first mosquito yesterday. It’s a bit early but, while occasionally cold, the frozen North hasn’t been all that frozen in 2017. And the news about the spread of Zika, for those of us in the Northeast, is not good – 6 cases in Maryland, already.
Sighting that first mosquito in March says it’s time to offer some information about the mosquito known as Aedes aegypti – the carrier for Zika, the same mosquito that carried dengue fever, yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis.
Before you dismiss this little pest because you’re not in your child-bearing years or you don’t have sex, keep in mind that the Zika virus can directly affect adult brain cells.
Zika also can make you sick, very sick. Here, in order of occurrence, according to Dr. Michael Callahan, the foremost authority on Zika and head of The Zika Foundation, are the symptoms of viral infection from Aedes Aegypti:
- A feeling of being unwell and/or having a chill with a touch of fever
- A high fever
- A headache in the upper frontal area of your head
- Myalgia or muscle aches in the lower back, upper legs and shoulders
- Conjunctivitis followed by reddening of the white of the eye, itself.
- A rash on the trunk first then possibly moving to the inside of the arm.
That’s not a nice symptom list but Aedes Aegypti has some tendencies that make it a bit easier for us to become more aware of and be more aggressive in protecting ourselves:
- The Aedes Aegypti is black and white – black with white scales on its legs – so keep an eye out for that pattern.
- This mosquito is a weak flier so it prefers to bite indoors! And it’s a day time biter, unlike its cousins. So be on the lookout, indoors and kill mosquitoes you see.
- This mosquito uses silent flight – you won’t hear it buzzing your ears.
- Aedes Aegypti is aware of you looking at it and will hop off, “kettle” around your body and bite you on the back of your head, below the knees or on your feet.
Because of this mosquito’s unique lifestyle, all the pesticides being sprayed in your neighborhoods are a waste of money and a huge risk to your health. But you can protect yourself by using one of 3 repellents deemed safe for pregnant women and known to keep these mosquitoes off for up to 6 hours:
- DEET – your grandmother’s repellent
- Lemon of Eucalyptus – a newcomer but very effective
- Picardin – used by the DOD to protect soldiers
By the way, these repellents also work to repel ticks and fleas.
I can’t speak for you but I am really going to be on the lookout for these winged pests. If you want to arm yourself with more information about the Zika virus and how to keep yourself and your family safe, watch Dr. David Perlmutter’s interesting and in-depth interview with Dr. Michael Callahan of the Zika Foundation.
Photo courtesy of CDC/ Prof. Frank Hadley Collins, Dir., Cntr. for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, Univ. of Notre Dame.