I don’t know whether it’s because I am fair-skinned, have rich, juicy blood or am just unlucky, but if there’s a mosquito around, it finds me. I wish it was as easy as a temporary, irritating itch but when I get bit, the area swells up and pains me for more than a week—and itches like crazy!
Mosquitos are nasty. They are known to carry blood-born viruses such as West Nile, dengue, and malaria. Now, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), they carry the Zika Virus, which is “spreading explosively” in the Americas and as many as four million people will be infected by the end of the year. All but two countries in the Americas can expect cases of the Zika virus. The director general of WHO says, “the level of alarm is extremely high.”
For men and for women who aren’t pregnant the symptoms are irritating but non-life threatening. These include fever, rash or joint pain. However, if you are a pregnant woman and get bit by a mosquito carrying the Zika virus, you risk giving birth to a baby with microcephaly, which is a birth defect that causes a smaller than normal head and an undeveloped brain. An undeveloped brain! In other words, the child’s life expectancy will be low and its brain function will be poor—all from one mosquito bite!
This is not just an irritating itch. This is a life-threatening disease and an emotional nightmare for families. Already more than 5000 infants in Brazil have been born with microcephaly. I can’t imagine what millions of pregnant women are feeling right now—terror, horror, despair.
The evidence is strong enough that Zika is the cause of microcephaly that the Center for Disease Control has issued travel alerts for the affected countries, and the country of El Salvador is advising women to put off pregnancy for two years! Two years!
There is currently no treatment or vaccine for the Zika virus. Eradicating mosquitos must be the only way to curb the virus. While the CDC, WHO and governments sound the alarm and discuss what to do, millions of pregnant women are experiencing indescribable terror every time they feel an itch.
It appears that the only way to protect pregnant women from Zika is to make sure they don’t get bit by mosquitos. What a lame response. As one who gets bit by mosquitos, I know this is impossible!
The traditional options for avoiding mosquito bites include making sure there is no standing water nearby where mosquitoes can breed, spray insecticides and use mosquito repellent. Reporter Brooke Borel for Popular Science has an excellent article on the efficacy and types of repellents, “Does Your Insect Repellent Repel Insects?”
I do what I can. I am so susceptible to mosquito bites that I nearly go mad when mosquitos are present. I am diligent at making sure there is no standing water near my home which is where they breed. I make ineffectual calls to the city to begin spraying for mosquitos in my area. I use mosquito repellent like a maniac—but I still get mosquito bites.
The good news is, I’m not pregnant.