Zika isn’t the only insect-born illness you need to be wary of.
Last year was a big year for Zika. I remember the concern came around the same time as the Rio Olympics and spread like wildfire. As of April, 2017, the CDC states that a total of 1,793 pregnant women in the U.S. show evidence of Zika virus infection, and 110 actual cases have been reported.
Obviously we have all been outside lately and are aware that temperatures are only rising. Since Zika is carried by mosquitos, this means that the prevalence of the disease will likely increase. Unfortunately, Zika isn’t the only thing we have to worry about. Knowing about these diseases and the symptoms may make a huge difference in yours or your family’s health, so just be aware that they are out there, and if you notice any symptoms, mention it to your doctor.
Zika- Spread by infected Aedes mosquitos, Zika manifests as fever, rash, headache, red eyes, and muscle pain. The symptoms pass within several days, but the real issue is that Zika can be transmitted from a mother to her unborn child and cause microcephaly (an underdeveloped head or brain). There is no vaccine or medication, so your best bet is to get tested for Zika if you are planning a pregnancy, or find out you are expecting.
READ MORE: How to Avoid the Zika Virus in Brazil
Lyme Disease- Due to the changes in climate, we are all at a much higher risk for Lyme. The disease is caused by a bacteria, and has symptoms like headache, fever, fatigue, and rash. The majority of cases occur in the Northeast, Midwest, and West Coast, and can be identified by a red, expanding skin rash that resembles a bullseye. If caught early, Lyme Disease is treatable by antibiotics, so its important to check your body after any exposure to dense nature.
POW- Powassan virus is a new disease on the rise that is also spread by ticks. POW can cause severe inflammation to the brain and spinal cord, and 10% of cases lead to death. According to the CDC, only 75 cases have been reported in the past 10 years, mostly in the Northeast or Great Lakes. Symptoms are fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, and confusion. The best way to avoid POW is to avoid ticks, or remove them from your body as early as possible.
West Nile- West Nile shares many similarities to Zika, as it is transmitted by infected mosquitos and has no cure or vaccine. Typical West Nile infections subside within a few days with mild symptoms, but one out of five people contract West Nile fever, which causes fever, headache, vomiting, diarrhea, fatique, skin rash, and can lead to encephalitis (brain swelling), or meningitis (brain and spinal inflammation). People over 60 and those who have other diseases are at higher risk for West Nile.
Chikungunya-175 cases of Chikungunya have been reported in the US as of January 2017, most of them having traveled recently to the Caribbean. Chikungunya sufferers experience joint pain, fever, muscle pain, headaches, and rashes. The symptoms go away after a week or so, but the joint pain can last months or years in some cases.
At the end of the day we can do our best to avoid these diseases, but its basically impossible to avoid insects. You can lessen your risks to all these diseases by wearing long sleeves when you are in the great outdoors, using insect repellents, using protection during sex (for Zika), regularly emptying any standing water on your property, keeping your yard mowed and maintained, and searching yourself if you think there is even a remote possibility that you have come into contact with a tick.