West Nile virus-transmitting Culex mosquitoes may also be carrying Zika virus, according to new findings. The scientists in Brazil found Zika virus in Culex mosquitoes, which are known to transmit West Nile virus. The findings imply a larger problem of the local spread of Zika virus across the U.S.
Although Culex mosquitoes are not as aggressive, they are more widespread. In fact, they are already in the U.S. transmitting West Nile virus.
Lead scientists Constancia Ayres said, “It can transmit Zika. What we need to know now is which species is the most important — if Culex is the primary vector or the secondary vector.”
Matthew Aliota, researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, added, “We need more research to see if it’s a competent vector. Just because you find virus in a Culex mosquito doesn’t mean the mosquito can transmit the virus. A mosquito might pick up a virus when feeding and that virus might replicate in the midgut but still might not disseminate to secondary tissues.”
Other research did not find Zika virus in different mosquito breeds.
Unlike Zika, West Nile virus isn’t new and can be found in the U.S. But with the spread of Zika virus, researchers are once again raising awareness of West Nile virus to help the general public avoid illness and stay safe.
Symptoms of West Nile virus include fever, headache, body aches, mild rash, and swollen lymph glands. If symptoms progress, they may include vomiting, nausea, stiff neck, high fever, drowsiness, confusion, difficulty swallowing, lack of consciousness, lack of coordination, muscle weakness, and paralysis.
If you are planning on being outdoors, oils and scents have been shown to keep mosquitoes away. Whether you use candles or sprays, they can help reduce your risk. If you have sensitive skin, taking antihistamines days prior to being outdoors along with using a spray can reduce swelling and reaction to the bite.
Another easy way to minimize your risk of bites is avoiding certain areas. Woody, grassy, wet, and steamy areas attract more mosquitoes. Avoid traveling – or setting up a picnic – in these environments.
If you want to ease the itch at home, you can apply lotions and creams or non-prescription hydrocortisone cream. A paste made with baking soda and water can help relieve the itchiness as well. Applying cool compresses to bites can reduce itching and, of course, if the reaction is more severe, antihistamines can reduce the reaction.
Lastly, if you have been bitten, do not scratch! It may be tempting, and you may think you’re getting some relief, but scratching will only cause more harm than good. Instead, opt for an over-the-counter after-bite solution or other natural soothing remedy.
You don’t have to let mosquitoes ruin your summer. By protecting yourself and being aware of your surroundings, you can limit your chances of getting those pesky bites.