by Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent
In today’s article, I will provide information on the Zika virus, ways to prevent exposure to mosquitoes and reliable sources for additional information.
As of February 10, there were 16 known cases of Zika virus in Florida with one of those cases in Northwest Florida (Santa Rosa County). All 16 cases were acquired by travelers outside the United States. Infected individuals had travel histories to parts of South and Central America and the Caribbean. So far, there are no known locally acquired cases – transmission of the virus from mosquitoes – in Florida.
The Zika virus was first discovered in 1947 in the Zika Forest in Uganda when the virus was recovered from a sentinel rhesus monkey being used in a yellow fever research project. It was first isolated from a human in Nigeria in 1954.
Known mosquito species in Florida that can transmit the Zika virus are the Yellow Fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) and the Asian Tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus). It is not yet known if the strains found in Florida will transmit the virus.
Symptoms of the disease can include fever, join pain, skin rash, muscle pain, headache and conjunctivitis. Only about 1 in 5 persons infected will develop symptoms. Little is known about potential after effects of infection, including long term neurological effects. Because mothers infected during pregnancy can result in babies being born with small heads and brain damage, it is recommended that pregnant women avoid travel to destinations where Zika is found.
No vaccines are currently available against Zika so protecting against mosquito bites is the best option in protecting yourself. This involves eliminating mosquito habitats, wearing protective clothing and using effective repellents.
Mosquitoes that transmit the virus reproduce in containers that hold water. So inspect your yard once per week and remove, drain or cover water-holding items. This includes such items as wheelbarrows, used tires, gutters, buckets, plant containers, birdbaths, tarps and similar containers.
Protective clothing includes wearing long pants and sleeves in areas where mosquitoes are active.
When using any repellent, it’s important to understand what active ingredient is in the repellent, whether or not it has been shown to be effective and to follow the label directions for its use. The UF/IFAS Extension publication titled Mosquito Repellents provides excellent information on these repellents, including their effectiveness. It is available online at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in419 or from the UF/IFAS Extension Office in you County. Also, a UF/IFAS Extension publication title Zika, a Mosquito-Transmitted Virus is available online at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in1120 or from the UF/IFAS Extension Office in your County. A wealth of information on mosquitoes and mosquito borne diseases is available on the following UF/IFAS website. http://mosquito.ifas.ufl.edu. Information in this article comes from the UF/IFAS Extension Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory.