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The Zika Virus

As you know, the Zika virus has been making daily headlines. And with all the questions surrounding the virus, people are worried about the health of their pets, and understandably so.

To give some background, the Zika virus is related to yellow fever, dengue and West Nile. Symptoms of the virus include fever, joint pain, muscle aches, rashes, headaches and red eyes. The good news is that most people who are infected with the Zika virus recover within a week, and the chances of dying from it is extremely rare. Most of the attention so far has concentrated on how the virus is affecting pregnant women, whose babies are at risk of contracting a life-threatening birth defect known as microcephaly.

The way that the virus is spread is through the bite of a mosquito, three specific ones called Aedes africanus, Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopticus. In the U.S., both Aegypti and Albopticus have been found in the southeastern part of the country and as far north as Connecticut. Until recently, the Zika virus hasn’t been much of a concern for U.S. citizens because it was mostly confined to Africa and Asia. It wasn’t until about five years ago when cases began to pop up in the Americas and Europe and even then, an understanding of the virus and widespread awareness didn’t happen until about six months ago.

So what does this all mean for pets and the summer months ahead? Honestly, no one is quite sure. Because research has just started, it is still unclear how the Zika virus can affect pets. At this time, there have been no cases of pets having contacted or transmitted the virus and no scientific studies have been performed.

There are ways that pet parents can protect their pets. Mosquito control is a must! Visit your local veterinarian and inquire about a heart worm preventative, since heart worm is also transmitted by these winged beasts. Around the outside of the home, check to make sure there is no standing water in flower pots, bird baths, bowls and buckets. This will keep mosquitos from breeding, since they prefer wet areas. At dawn and dusk, keep pets inside - these two times of the day are the most popular times for mosquitos to come out.

Right now, there is no vaccination or treatment for people or pets infected with the Zika virus. Together with other worldwide governments, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is working to cut down on mosquito populations and to find some answers on the newest virus threatening the continents. So stay tuned to health alerts, news, and do your part to protect your pet.