Zika and Other Mosquito-borne Pathogens
By admin February 4, 2016


The recent outbreak of the Zika virus in Brazil and other countries of the Americas and the Caribbean has put mosquito-borne diseases into the news spotlight. As recently as January 25th, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that they predicted Zika spreading to all but two countries in the regions. Symptoms include fever, rash, conjunctivitis and muscle pain. While it is not yet confirmed as the cause, there is strong evidence that Zika is the culprit of over 3500 cases of babies born with microcephaly, or smaller than average heads, in Brazil alone. As a result, the US State Department has cautioned pregnant women against traveling to regions where there are known cases.

The disease, which originated in Uganda, has quickly spread throughout the Americas via the Aedis aegypti mosquito with some of the most concentrated cases occurring in Brazil. This particular type of mosquito is also associated with spreading malaria, dengue fever, and chikungunya, which has also seen a rise in the region in recent years.

While there are other contributing factors to the spread of mosquito-borne diseases, evidence of global climate change brings with it fears that it could cause more epidemics of the kind as the territory of the mosquitoes increases with more hospitable environments. This is particularly worrisome as diseases which have primarily been contained to certain regions spread at an exponential rate and as diseases such as malaria continue to kill hundreds of thousands of people worldwide every year, with children being among the most vulnerable population.

Fortunately, there are various tools at the disposal of those working to curb the spread of vector-borne illness, or diseases that require an agent or vector like an insect to spread the infectious microbe. Among these tools include, vector control measures like fumigation, mosquito nets, and insect repellent. Other measures for case management include vaccines when available and efforts to isolate the disease.

Because it may take years for scientists to develop a vaccine, it is important for the public health community to work as quickly as possible to control the factors that spread the disease in order to curb its reach. This may include fumigation, insect repellant, mosquito nets, and efforts to prevent mosquitoes from entering homes and laying eggs in stagnant water. Due to the perceived link between the illness and microcephaly, pregnant women should be sure to take extra precautions.


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