The Zika virus has been in the news recently as you have probably seen. Although most of the Zika cases have happened in Africa where it was discovered, more and more people from the Western hemisphere are getting infected as well. Zika comes from the bite of an infected female Aedes aegypti mosquito. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that Zika can cause microcephaly, a birth defect that causes abnormally small heads in babies. The World Health Organization also said that it may also cause Guillain-Barre syndrome.
What’s Worse than Zika?
Aside from Zika, the Aedes aegypti mosquito also causes other diseases, such as the dengue fever and the chikungunya virus. Although Zika is more reported on the news and more feared, it is actually the “lesser evil” among the three. Let’s take a close look at Dengue and Chikungunya.
- Dengue– This disease is dangerous because of its asymptomatic nature. Unlike other diseases, it is not so easy to identify and diagnose. A fever of up to 104 degrees may be experienced by a person bitten by an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito, as well as rashes, headaches, joint and muscle pains. While we always equate dengue with abnormally high fever, some strains of dengue do not cause an infected person to feel feverish. Dengue becomes dangerous when the blood vessels stop working and the oxygen blood fails to clot, causing seizures and bleeding. If it remains untreated, the blood vessels can collapse and lead to hemorrhaging and death. About 25,000 people die from dengue every year.
- Chikungunya– This virus has almost the same symptoms as dengue. Most people will experience fever, headache, and joint pains. Infected people get better from chikungunya within 7 to 10 days. However, about 40% of people who get infected with the virus will also develop chronic chikungunya, where they may suffer from recurring joint pains for as long as 2 years, This results in a less-than-sharp dexterity and loss of mobility. Other serious complications of the disease are inflammation of the heart and brain, as well as eye problems. Death from chikungunya happens very rarely, unlike dengue.
All three diseases have similar symptoms, but the main difference is that Zika will only last for a couple days and then the symptoms will be gone for good. On the other hand, dengue can last for weeks at a time and can be life-threatening once there is bleeding and hemorrhaging. Immediate medical attention is needed for those who have dengue fever while people who have Zika rarely get themselves checked by a medical professional and are unlikely to die.
Studies about the Aedes aegypti mosquito are currently underway, one of which is conducted by entomologists from the LSU AgCenter, who received a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The aim of their project is to develop two classes of insecticides that will control and curb Louisiana mosquitos.
However, prevention is still the best cure, and the best way to prevent mosquitos is to ensure there are no places in the home where mosquitos can breed. Homeowners need to check and clean liquid containers that may become breeding grounds for mosquitos and install window and door screens to prevent these insects from entering the home.
Lessons from New Orleans and Mosquito Control
Louisiana’s mosquito control board has always been on the alert when it comes to disease-carrying mosquitos. The board has taken it upon themselves to prevent an outbreak of the diseases caused by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Here are some of the things they have done in recent history.
- Hurricane Katrina and the mosquito fish-The city board dropped hundreds of mosquitofish in abandoned swimming pools all across New Orleans. These fishes consumed the mosquito larvae found in these murky swimming pools.
- 2012 Dengue response plan-After a dengue outbreak in Florida, the city board conducted mosquito testing within Bywater and Mid-City neighborhoods, and protocols were in place if ever an outbreak were to occur.
- 2014 Chikungunya containment-The city board also followed closely the three cases of chikungunya that came from travelers who vacationed from the Caribbean.
Other US cities should learn and follow in the footsteps of the Big Easy state when it comes to preparing for an outbreak that might result from Zika, Dengue, or Chikungunya. Perhaps the only good news that Zika has managed to bring us is that we are now more aware of how deadly the Aedes aegypti mosquito really is, and how there are far more dangerous diseases it can carry.
The Aedes aegypti is tough to eliminate. It preys on people during the daytime and relies on water to live. If all your efforts to remove mosquitos from your home, office, or commercial establishment have been incomplete, then it’s time to contact us and get rid of them for good!
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Spotlight on Disease: What You Need To Know About The Zika Virus in Louisiana
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