The Zika virus became a widespread concern for travelers beginning in the spring of 2016. Travelers were warned not to visit certain areas, notably tropical climates, deemed vulnerable to Zika outbreaks. #Zika #ZikaVirus
Zika and your pets
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito. While many people can overcome a Zika infection, it’s particularly dangerous to pregnant women and their fetuses and women who hope to become pregnant. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects that affect the fetus’s brain.
Since the Zika virus garnered international attention, certain areas in North America have been affected, including Florida and New York. Zika has understandably raised concern about the impact the virus can have should it spread even further. While the illness is usually mild, with symptoms such as fever, aches and pains lasting as little as one week, pet owners are unsure if the virus poses a threat to their four-legged friends.
As of late summer 2016, the CDC did not think that animals were involved in the spread of Zika virus. There has been no evidence that Zika is spread to people from contact with animals, nor have there been any reports of pets or other types of animals becoming sick with Zika. The only animal ever known to have experienced Zika spontaneously was a monkey with a mild fever in the Zika Forest of Uganda in the 1940s. Primates have the ability to become infected, says the CDC, but only a few experiments have ever presented any symptoms.
The CDC adds that there is also limited evidence from a study conducted in Indonesia in the late 1970s that horses, cows, water buffaloes, goats, ducks, and bats could become infected with Zika. But there is no evidence that the animals developed the disease or posed a risk for Zika virus transmission to humans.
Pets are much more likely to succumb to other mosquito-spread illnesses than the Zika virus. However, pet owners can still take certain precautions to keep their companion animals safe. Mosquito control measures are the best sources of protection. Ensure there are no sources of standing water in and around a home, as standing water serves as a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Natural and chemical pesticides may help in the yard. Also, speak with a veterinarian about repellants labeled for animals if mosquitoes are particularly bad. You also can limit the time pets spend outdoors during peak mosquito season.
Zika outbreaks are extremely unlikely in cold, dry climates where mosquitoes are not prevalent. But pet owners in such climates should still take measures to protect their pets from mosquitoes. Routine vet visits and vaccinations are essential to keeping pets safe. Parasites can cause any number of health ailments, and heartworm is a particularly dangerous condition that can be transmitted through a mosquito bite.
More research and information is needed regarding the impact of Zika on livestock and companion animals. But pet owners should continue to prioritize protecting their animals from potentially harmful mosquitoes.
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