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Zika Arrives in the U.S.

In early August, Governor Rick Scott of Florida announced that the state’s Department of Health (DOH) had identified four additional people in Florida with the Zika virus who likely contracted it through a mosquito bite. That brought the total number of people with locally transmitted Zika to 21.

This is not only an issue affecting us here in Florida – this is a national issue,” Scott later said. “Florida is just at the head of it with the first cases of local transmission. 

A week later, a baby born with microcephaly caused by Zika died in Texas.

Post Olympics

As the excitement of the Olympic Games in Rio concludes and those in attendance arrive home, increased awareness of the possibility of infection remains. At present, more than 7,300 Americans have been diagnosed with Zika, including 1,825 in the continental U.S. and 5,548 in U.S. territories, according to the CDC, with most cases in the continental U.S. related to travel or sex with someone who has traveled. 

Areas of Greatest Concern

The areas of primary risk for Zika virus in the Americas are restricted mainly to tropical and sub-tropical regions, extending northward to the southern U.S. where the disease carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito populations exist in numbers high enough to support local transmission.

Candice Burns Hoffmann, press officer with the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, says southern areas of the U.S. have the highest risk due to their warm and humid weather conditions. 

Higher temperatures and rain can influence how quickly viruses like Zika can replicate in its mosquito host.

“At warmer temperatures, virus particles replicate faster, leading to a higher viral load and more efficient transmission,” Hoffman says. “There is, however, an upper limit to temperature at which mosquitoes cannot easily survive and populations are suppressed. This temperature is about 35C or 95F.

What is Zika?

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Zika virus (ZIKV), a flavivirus related to yellow fever, dengue, West Nile, and Japanese encephalitis, originated in the Zika forest in Uganda and was discovered in a rhesus monkey in 1947. The disease now has “explosive” pandemic potential, with outbreaks in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the Americas. Since Brazil reported Zika virus in May 2015, infections have occurred in at least 20 countries in the Americas.

What are the Dangers of the Virus?

Zika can cause birth defects like microcephaly, due to abnormal fetal brain development, as well as Guillain–Barré Syndrome, a serious nervous system disease. For individuals with weak immune systems, Zika may even cause death.

How Is Zika Transmitted?

It is primarily spread through the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, an aggressive daytime biter that occurs worldwide, but can also be transmitted by sexual transmission and shared bodily fluids, blood transfusions, tattoos, piercings, and drug injection.

How To Prevent Infection:

To deter the Zika virus, individuals should wear long sleeves and pants to cover their limbs, treat clothing with permethrin and apply insect repellent with DEET.

Staying in air-conditioned buildings, using mosquito nets around beds and not allowing water to collect in containers is likewise encouraged.

How To Avoid Transmission:

To avoid transmitting the disease to others one should use condoms during sexual intercourse, not donate blood for at least 6 months after returning from an international destination, clean and bandage any scrapes, cuts and sores, and lastly, avoid mosquito bites to prevent the virus from spreading.

Possible Symptoms if You’re Infected:

Numerous individuals experience no symptoms whatsoever, which is why 80% of those infected don’t know they’re infected and can transmit the disease. Others may have a mild fever of 98.7+°F (37+°C), pink eye, rash, muscle/joint pain, headache or upset stomach..

What to Do If You Become Infected:

Men and Non-Pregnant Women should consult a doctor. Drink plenty of water and get lots of rest. Take pain-relievers (aspirin, ibuprofen) for aches and pains.

Pregnant women should consult a doctor immediately. Tests may include blood and urine tests and/or a fetal ultrasound.