9 Myth busters concerning Zika virus and prevention

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16 Sep 2016 - General

Oh yes! The Z word has resurfaced again, but I hope to give you a different perspective. 

We have all heard the facts on Zika virus. We have also heard that the number of cases are rising with links to a number of neurological complications. It is time we heard the myth busters - to separate fact from fiction. I also want to put a spotlight on prevention. Creating awareness of the spread of Zika virus is as imperative as prevention. Did you know that only 1 in 5 infections are symptomatic? In most cases, the symptoms are mild and self-limiting, and only in rare cases have neurological complications been reported. We have to keep in mind that Zika virus is not a new disease. It has been reported since the 1950s. So what are the myth busters out there?  

1. Zika virus will harm your baby

  • Researchers agree that the virus causes microencephaly and other neurological birth defects, but the incidence is unknown. They only know at this point that there was a 20 fold increase in microencephaly cases in Brazil in Zika infected newborns. Guillain-Barre Syndrome has also been reported but the relationship to Zika is not known.

2. All mosquitoes carry diseases

  • Wrong! Only fresh water species of mosquitoes pose a potential health risk to humans. 

3. There is no way to prevent Zika virus

  • Wrong! The best method of handling the spread of Zika is through prevention. We must be most diligent now as the raining season approaches. Such prevention methods include:
    • Staying away from mosquito hot spots
    • Wearing protective clothing such as long sleeves and trousers
    • Clear breeding grounds e.g. stagnant water
    • Using condoms when having sexual intercourse or abstinence 
    • Use insect repellents. Not just any insect repellents! Take note to use repellents that contain at least 20% DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalytpus, or IR3535. Products containing these ingredients that are available in Singapore include Off! and Elven Guard. Other forms of insect repellents containing ingredients such as citronella, cedar, peppermint, lemongrass, lavender, and geranium do not have strong clinical evidence in efficacy.

4. DEET kills mosquitoes

  • Wrong! DEET repels mosquitoes by interfering with the neurons and receptors on the antennae and mouth-parts of the mosquitoes that detect chemicals like lactic acid and carbon dioxide on our skin. 

5. Higher percentage of DEET means better protection

  • Wrong! Higher percentage of DEET means longer protection. E.g. 2% will give 2 hour protection whereas 15% will give 5 hours. 

6. Zika virus can be transmitted via water consumption

  • Wrong! Zika virus is mainly transmitted from the Aedes mosquito to human. It can also be sexually transmitted via semen, but is not considered a sexually transmitted disease.   

7. I live next to ponds, swamps, and lakes so I am more at risk of Zika due to close proximity to their breeding grounds

  • Wrong! The Aedes mosquitoes do not breed in wetlands. These types of moquitoes are 'urban' mosquitoes and they rely on humans for survival. They are typical day biters and are drawn to stagnant waters. They tend to lay their eggs in shallow waters and it only takes 5 days for the larvae to develop into adult mosquitoes. So it's essential to get rid of stagnant water!! 

8. I am not pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant therefore Zika does not affect me

  • Although most serious health risks of Zika pertain to pregnant women or women of child bearing age due to its link to microencephaly, this is an issue that every citizen should be vigilant about in prevention. If one mosquito bites and infects you with Zika virus, that mosquito carries the infection and can bite another. Keep this in mind!

9. My pets are at risk of Zika

  • There is no evidence that Zika affects anyone other than mosquitoes and humans. 

Hope this is useful. Remember to do your part and protect yourself, your family and your community. Remember: It is not the mosquito moving the virus, it is the people!

With every new disease and every outbreak, we can see clearly different forms of exaggerated reactions that reach panic sometimes. We witnessed that with the avian flu then swine flu and recently zika virus.. etc. There is no doubt that we should take these diseases seriously, but we should keep in mind that these kind of news have been abused in many occasions to make huge profits. For example, Drug companies have sold $1.5 billion worth of swine flu shots in 2009, in addition to the $1 billio...
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