Pest Borne Diseases: Zika Virus

July 30, 2019

Zika virus is one of the lesser-known diseases here in the United States. There is actually no current local case here in the U.S., including the states of Florida and Texas. This does not mean, however, that we are safe and that we should disregard the dangers of this disease. After all, there is such a thing called travel. The modern world has made travel so easy and convenient, and as such, many Americans travel to different countries all over the world - and that includes traveling to countries with Zika virus cases. 

What we know about Zika

Zika virus is mostly spread by the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. The symptoms for this disease include fever, rashes, headaches, joint pain, and red eyes. While these symptoms can last for several days, they are mild and not fatal. There is no vaccine for Zika, but people who were already infected develop immunity to it. Other ways of transmission are through sexual intercourse, blood transfusion, and a pregnant mother to her fetus. The vaccine is currently not yet available. 

The risks of getting the Zika virus

Zika virus infection during pregnancy may cause birth defects like microcephaly and other brain defects. Reports have also surfaced that this disease has also cause Gillian-Barre syndrome, which is a rare illness of the nervous system wherein a person’s own immune system damages the nerve cells. This, in turn, causes muscle weakness and even paralysis.

Additional studies made by the University of California - Davis indicated that Zika virus may pose a bigger threat of miscarriage than what was previously thought. According to the Science Daily, “the study found that 26 of non-human primates infected with Zika during early stages of pregnancy experienced miscarriage or stillbirth even though the animals showed few signs of infection.

“Previous Zika research only measured miscarriages and stillbirth in women who displayed signs and symptoms of the virus. A recent study of women who were known to be infected with Zika found that 5 percent did not carry to term or had stillbirths,” the article went on to continue.

The Zika virus is also known to cause children to be born with abnormalities in the brain. This abnormality is called microencephaly.

According to Lark Coffey, an arborvirologist at University of California - Davis, “For pregnant women who live in areas where Zika virus is prevalent and may experience spontaneous abortions, the possible link to Zika virus may be missed. Our data in monkeys indicate more research is needed so that researchers can develop intervention strategies to protect pregnant women and their fetuses from Zika virus.”

As we can all see now, there is more danger to Zika virus than we first thought.

Kissing and casual contact does not transmit the Zika virus

Even though sexual intercourse can transmit the virus, kissing and casual contact does not. The saliva of an infected person does not pass the Zika virus to another person. Even sharing or spoon or fork is safe.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin - Madison conducted studies on monkeys that were infected by the Zika virus. They swabbed the tonsils of 5 uninfected monkeys with a high dose of Zika-infected saliva. None of those 5 monkeys did get infected.

Researchers at the said university even found out that saliva may even prevent the Zika virus to infect cells. Due to the viscosity of saliva, the virus could not move and get to the cells that they would want to infect.

The researchers, though, admitted that the transfer of the virus is still possible through saliva, but it would take an extraordinarily high viral load, but that high amount just is not found in a lot of infected humans.

There are now genes found to guard against infection   

There is new research going on that could one day stop Zika dead on its tracks. This new study uses a genetic screen that could identify genes that can protect cells from infection. Currently, there is no vaccine nor treatment for Zika virus.

This study is being conducted by professors at the Tel Aviv University and was published in the Journal of Virology last May. It was based on the modification of CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing techniques. CRISPR-Cas9 is a “naturally occurring bacterial genome editing system that has been adapted to gene editing in mammalian cells.”

According to the published report, “the system is based on the bacterial enzyme Cas9, which can locate and modify specific locations in the human genome. A modification of this system, known as CRISPR activation, is accomplished by genetically changing Cas9 in a way that enables the expression of specific genes in their original DNA locations."

"CRISPR activation can be used to identify genes that can protect against viral infection," according to Dr. Ella Skelana researcher, from the said report. "We used this adapted system to activate avert gene in the genome in cultured cells. We then infected the cells with Zika virus. While most cells died because of the infection, some cells survived due to the overexpression of the protective genes."

This is clearly a very encouraging development because it gets us closer to finding a cure for Zika virus, something we never had before.

Some researchers, though, think they are close to finding treatment

According to an online issue of the Scientific Reports, researchers from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and joined by colleagues from other universities, say that they have evidence that proves that further investigation can be made on a drug that has been previously used to treat Hepatitis C for the purpose of treating Zika virus as well. They used it on both cell cultures and mouse models, and the drug protected and rescued neural cells that were infected by the Zika virus. The research though is only at its early stages and more work needs to be done.

Meet the cause

Mosquitoes might very well be considered as the most dangerous creatures on the planet. Millions of people worldwide succumb to diseases transmitted by mosquitoes yearly. It has been said that mosquitoes have killed more people than all the wars in history combined. Not only do their bites itchy and unsightly, but they also transmit several deadly diseases. Diseases such as dengue fever, malaria, encephalitis, elephantiasis, yellow fever, and of course the Zika virus are just some of them.

Mosquitoes are small insects, its size is about .125 mm to .75 inches and its weight is about 0.000088 oz. There are around 3,000 species of mosquitoes, and they are found all throughout the world, except for Antarctica. Their bodies are slim and jointed, with a pair of wings, three pairs of legs, antennae attached to their heads, and prolonged mouthparts. They cannot see well and use their senses more.

In finding their hosts, mosquitoes use their heightened senses to detect carbon dioxide emitted by humans. They also use the scent of their hosts to home in on them. They cannot depend on their eyes since they do not have very good vision. It is worth noting that only the female adult mosquitoes bite; males do not have the necessary mouthparts to bite. The mouths of females have two tubes: one is for injecting enzymes that prevent blood clotting, the other is for sucking blood. Both the males and females feed on nectar, though the males eat nectar exclusively.

Females love to be near standing water, and this is where they breed and lay their eggs. 


There is something we can do, of course. To avoid getting hit by the Zika virus, prevention is always the answer. Here are some of the ways to get rid of these mosquitoes:  

1) Use mosquito repellent. Make sure that it is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, and that it contains the active ingredient DEET for added protection. 

2) When going outdoors, wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. The lesser exposed skin, the lesser the chances of getting bitten. 

3) Since mosquitoes like to breed in standing water, remove items around your house that can hold water. Remove old tires, old cans, old gutters, abandoned birdbaths, and other similar objects. 

4) Inside the bedroom, use a mosquito net. For some reason, mosquitoes like to stay in bedrooms.

5) Electric fans can also protect you. Mosquitoes do not like strong winds, as they could easily be knocked off their flight patterns by the wind. 

If you already have these unwanted pests in your household, be sure to contact the best pest control management in the Carolinas, Go-Forth Pest Control.  

Why Go-Forth?

Go-Forth Pest Control is a family-owned company that has been around since 1959. Our expert experience in exterminating pests like mosquitoes, cockroaches, wasps, weevils, mice, flies, termites, ants, and spiders make us the leading choice in the Carolinas. We also use only the latest and most advanced equipment in the business. You may check us on Facebook or Google us to see what our satisfied customers have to say about us.

Go-Forth Pest Control has earned the trust of residents and businesses in North Carolina for more than 50 years. 

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