8 Myths About The Zika Virus You Shouldn't Believe

Avoiding bites is the only way to prevent Zika
Avoiding bites is the only way to prevent Zika | © James Jordan/Flickr
Sarah Brown

The Zika virus has made alarm bells ring across the world. Being new to the spotlight has created a lot of mystery surrounding the virus, leading to an overwhelming mix of myths and facts about it. We separate the facts from the fiction to give you exactly what you need to know about Zika.

Myth 1: You can get Zika from water

Whilst the larvae of the Aedes mosquito (the one responsible for transmitting the virus) hatch in stagnant water, you cannot get Zika from water, even if you ingest water with the larvae in it. Zika is spread mostly through mosquito bites but can also be transmitted through sexual intercourse with an infected person, blood transfusions and laboratory exposure. As a safety measure against Zika, the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) has issued new guidelines for blood and organ donations from people either effected by Zika or having visited a Zika hotspot area.

The Aedes mosquito, the one behind Zika

Myth 2: Pregnant women infected by Zika will definitely have a baby with a birth defect

Myth 3: Zika treatment will stop the effect of the virus

Unfortunately, there is no treatment against Zika currently and there is no vaccine either. However, since the outbreaks, scientists and doctors have been actively working together in an attempt to produce a vaccine but there isn’t one available yet. The recommended treatment for Zika is supportive therapy to alleviate the symptoms, including plenty of rest, keeping hydrated and taking flu-relief medicine.

A researcher studies samples of the Zika virus

Myth 4: The flu and Zika symptoms are the same

The common symptoms between the seasonal flu and Zika are fever, muscle and joint pain. But that’s where the similarities ends. The seasonal flu causes severe illness or even death with high fever, cough, headache, malaise (a severe feeling of being unwell), sore throats and runny nose. Zika, on the other hand, causes very mild symptoms to no symptoms at all. Some possible symptoms include low fever or rash, conjunctivitis and muscle and joint pain. However, in the extreme and rarer cases, Zika can lead to frightening complications such as microcephaly and Guillain Barré syndrome — a fatal disorder that attacks the nervous system.

Myth 5: There is no way to avoid Zika

You can lower the risk of getting Zika by using repellents on exposed skin, especially at dawn or dusk when mosquitos are at their most active. Repellents with DEET, IR3535 or Icaridin are the most effective at working against mosquitos. Other tips include using condoms and also keeping places free from stagnant water. So don’t leave any bottles of water outside open; it’s the perfect nest for Zika larvae. It is also recommended to cover up all areas of exposed skin to avoid bites. It is worth noticing, however, in the warmer cities of Brazil such as Rio de Janeiro, it is rare to see people fully covered as it is so hot.

Avoiding bites is the only way to prevent Zika

Myth 6: It’s vaccines and larvicides that cause microcephaly, not Zika

According to the WHO, there is no evidence that vaccines or larvicides cause microcephaly, and that the most apparent cause is Zika. Larvicides are in fact very important for places that have no piped water and tend to store drinking water outside as it kills the mosquito when it’s in larval stage. This fact makes it even more important to take preventive measures from getting Zika.

Mosquito larvae thrive in stagnant water

Myth 7: Only chemical prevention is available

As well as keeping places free of stagnant water, there is another unusual yet effective way of mosquito population control: fish. Larvae-eating fish left in water containers can be used as an integrated approach to kill larvae in a sustainable and natural way. In El Salvador for example, this approach has proved to be very effective and has gained strong support from fishing communities.

Fish in stagnant water can help control mosquito populations

Myth 8: Zika is the result of releases of genetically modified mosquitos in Brazil

There certainly are genetically modified mosquitos around and about Brazil, but there is no evidence that links them to Zika. GM mosquitos actually help control mosquito populations by modifying genes in male mosquitos so larval offspring cannot survive. This was a common preventive tactic used against Dengue fever, another mosquito-borne virus that is present in Brazil and other countries.

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Culture Trip Spring Sale

Save up to $1,100 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

X
Edit article