Zika virus is a mosquito-borne virus transmitted primarily by the bite of the mosquito, Aedes aegypti. This species of mosquito also can transmit the viruses that cause dengue and chikungunya. Outbreaks of Zika virus have been reported in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Pacific islands and the Americas, most notably in Brazil.
Aedes aegypti mosquito
Zika virus is a mosquito-borne virus transmitted primarily by the bite of the mosquito, Aedes aegypti. This species of mosquito also can transmit the viruses that cause dengue and chikungunya1,2. Outbreaks of Zika virus have been reported in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Pacific islands and the Americas, most notably in Brazil2.
There is no vaccine for Zika virus. The main preventive approaches are raising awareness of the risk factors, reducing exposure to mosquito bites and eliminating their breeding grounds. Wearing clothing that covers the skin, including long sleeves and pants, and the use of an insect repellent are highly recommended while outdoors. The use of window and door screens, and staying in buildings with air conditioning also is recommended.
Mosquitoes typically propagate by laying eggs in and near standing water, including buckets, bowls, animal dishes, flower pots and vases. Mosquitoes can lay several hundred eggs on the walls of water-filled containers. When water covers the eggs, they hatch and become adults in about a week. They are aggressive daytime biters and prefer to bite people for a blood meal2. They can live indoors and outdoors near people. To help reduce the number of mosquitoes inside and outside buildings, empty standing water from containers such as flowerpots or buckets, even old tires and trash2.
Until more is known, and out of an abundance of caution, the U.S. CDC recommends pregnant women in any trimester should consider postponing travel to the areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. In addition, women who are thinking about becoming pregnant should consult their healthcare provider before traveling to these areas and follow similar steps3.
On February 1, 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) met to discuss the clusters of microcephaly and/or neurological disorders that are suspected to be associated with Zika virus transmission in Brazil. The WHO declared Zika virus infection to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). The committee made a number of recommendations, including but not limited to 1) risk communications in countries with Zika should be enhanced, 2) vector control measures and appropriate personal protective measures should be aggressively promoted, 3) attention should be given to ensuring women of childbearing age and particularly pregnant women have the necessary information and materials to reduce risk of exposure and 4) pregnant women who have been exposed to Zika virus should be counseled and followed for birth outcomes6.
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