The Zika virus has already effected much of South America and is being transmitted to humans by three particular species of mosquito. These are the same mosquitos that in the past have spread the dengue and chikungunya viruses.
Colombia’s national health institute has confirmed that over 2000 pregnant women have been infected with this virus that has no known vaccine or treatment for the symptoms.
It has been rapidly spreading across the Americas and has even reached some areas of South Florida. 22 people were found to be infected with the virus but every single one of them was infected outside of the United States.
The Zika virus had been reported in Brazil and was a great cause of concern for people attending the 2016 Summer Olympics as well as the athletes themselves. And the estimate by the World Health Organization, (WHO) is that more than four million people could be infected with the Zika virus by the end of 2016.
Many governments have responded to the outbreak by urging women of child bearing age to delay becoming pregnant as the virus has been linked to harmful and rather devastating birth defects that can have adverse consequences to a fetus’ brains.
The primary concern of this virus among humans is that babies who became infected through their mother while in the womb can develop microcephaly, which is a neurological disorder that causes babies to be born with extremely small heads.
This condition in human babies can cause developmental issues and even cause death. So it is indeed an issue to people living in affected areas.
While this is a very real threat to human beings, what does this mean for our companion animals including pet birds?
The virus was first found in a monkey in Uganda in the Zika Forest in the 1940s.
Primates, primarily monkeys and apes can indeed be infected with the virus but it isn’t common and they really don’t really show any symptoms other than a mild fever. Studies were done on monkeys in Brazil and they found that they could artificially infect them, but they found no overwhelming evidence of a Zika outbreak in the wild in the one particular area they studied. The risk of monkeys or other primates in the United States contracting the disease is quite low as all primates are quarantined for 31 days after arrival. Apparently the virus develops within 14 days of initial infection so the virus would be detected during the quarantine.
A study done in Indonesia in the 1970s showed that some animals, particularly horses, cows, ducks, bats, goats, and water buffalos could become infected with Zika but they found absolutely no evidence that they could transmit the disease to human beings, nor was there any evidence that these animals became sick. The monkeys and apes that did get the Zika virus did not show any evidence that it caused microcephaly in their offspring.
Medical professionals apparently agree that commonly kept household pets such as dogs, cats and birds are not at risk for contracting the Zika virus.
It is a virus that is only a potential threat to primates. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC) has found no evidence that it can be spread to our household companion animals.
Many people wonder, why not try and eliminate the mosquitos carrying the virus? There are some ethical issues with wiping out an entire species of anything in the wild and the other downside is that mosquitos are a food source for many animals including birds and bats. Purple martins, swallows and waterfowl such as ducks and geese eat them as they are an excellent source of protein. Mosquitos are even a food source for other insects such as spiders.
Are Dogs At Risk?
Dogs are at risk for other diseases carried by mosquitos such as heart worm but so far there seems to be no risk of them contracting the Zika virus.
If you are still concerned about mosquito bites, there are some things you can do to help prevent you or your pets from getting bitten.
Avoid Times When Exposure Is Likely
First and foremost is to keep your pets indoors during the times when they are most active. Dusk and early mornings are when the majority of species of mosquitos are active, so simply reducing their exposure during that time is a good way of avoiding bites to your companion animals.
Eliminate Standing Water
If you have standing water in an area in your yard where you have an aviary, removing it will eliminate the area where females lay their eggs.
Change Water Bowls Frequently
Changing the water in any water bowls several times a day will reduce the risk of mosquitos laying their eggs in the water.
Window Screens Are Essential
If you are still concerned about exposure to your pet bird, speak to an avian veterinarian about your concerns.