The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne virus. It’s in the family of other viruses carried by mosquitoes such as West Nile virus, malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever and more.
The Zika virus was first discovered in Uganda in 1947. It was found in a Rhesis monkey whose habitat was the Zika (overgrown) Forest. Little research was conducted on the virus as it did not appear to be a threat to humans. However mosquitoes were identified as the carriers of the virus in 1948. Findings in experiments using mice showed that they could be infected with the virus.
Little research was conducted on the virus as it did not appear to be a threat to humans until an outbreak in 2013 in French Polynesia. In 2015 an outbreak in Brazil infecting about 1.5 million people caused scientists to more seriously examine the virus. It was then that scientists connected birth defects to the Zika virus.
Symptoms of the virus are usually mild and don’t last long – about 4-7 days. Incubation is a few days to a week. Signs include headache, fever, rash, joint pain, light sensitivity, conjunctivitis. Often people are not even aware that they have the virus.
But unborn children are at risk for birth defects such as an abnormally small head and under-developed brain.
There is no treatment at present and pregnant women have been advised to avoid visiting countries that have reported cases of the virus.
One of the 3 species of mosquitoes known to carry Zika virus, the Aedes aegypti, more commonly bites humans. CDC researchers reported that in rural areas of Puerto Rico, 20 % of bites were to dogs.
Up until now, no scientific studies have been done to determine if the Zika virus affects dogs and cats although the potential is there.
Researchers are focusing on a vaccine to combat Zika virus in humans, but are several years away from development. For now, there are questions but no answers.
To avoid attracting mosquitoes, rid your outdoor area of all standing water including in containers, rain gutters, flower pots. Keep grass short and trim bushes. Rake up all fallen leaves often.