Mosquitoes Bring Another Virus to our Doorstep
GOSHEN—Just as an Orange County resident receives supportive care after testing positive for the Zika virus, Orange County Deputy Commissioner for Health Chris Ericson said on Feb. 3 that 10 cases of the virus from returning travelers have erupted in the state.
Ericson said he had no information on the present status of the county resident who recently returned from South America. “She could be feeling completely fine, as far as I know.”
“There is virtually no risk of acquiring Zika virus in this region or even in the state,” said Dr. Eli Avila, Orange County’s Commissioner of Health. Avila recommends that people check the Center for Disease Control website for travel advisories and precautionary measures when traveling to certain countries.
Ericson said mosquitoes are not active in the winter, but the department is monitoring the situation as it evolves. “We are watching it quite carefully and seeing what the relationships are and what the trends are in the South American countries.”
What to look for
Zika virus cannot be spread by casual person-to-person contact. The symptoms of Zika virus infection are usually very mild and many people might not even realize they have been infected. Symptoms typically begin two to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
Only one in five people infected with Zika virus will get sick, with the most common symptoms being fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). There have been reports of increased cases of a birth defect known as microcephaly that may be associated with Zika virus infection among pregnant women. There is currently no vaccine to prevent infection or treatment for Zika virus.
Right now the concern is with pregnant women. “It’s been widely reported about fetuses being born with small heads. They are not quite sure if it’s completely related to the virus or is related to something else in conjunction with the virus,” Ericson said. Pregnant women traveling to South America, especially in Colombia or Brazil, should use repellent and stay indoors when mosquitoes are most active.
The biggest concern locally is controlling mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus. Ericson said the county conducts a larvacide program budgeted at $170,000 a year.
The county hires a company to drop larvacide tablets into storm drains and other places where standing water might breed any type of mosquito. He said the tablets kill the mosquito larvae “and help keep the population down” in all municipalities.
In conjunction with Orange County Community College, the department also conducts a mosquito identification program. “We have traps throughout the county that collects mosquitoes,” Ericson said. The college identifies the mosquito species and reports the species that are known to carry certain diseases. The department sends the information they’ve gathered to the state department of health.
The Zika virus is thought mostly to be spread by mosquito bites, but the CDC is now warning of a transmission through a blood transfusion and sexual contact, reported The Epoch Times. Symptoms include fever, rash, joint and muscle pain, and headache. “The horror show part of this scourge is it can also apparently cause brain damage in the fetuses of pregnant women.”
The National Geographic website reported the disease is carried by a tropical species of mosquito, Aedes aegypti, which also carries the virus for Dengue fever. “Medical experts worry that insect-borne diseases are spreading as the climate warms and people travel more.”
Drugmaker Sanofi Pasteur announced on Feb. 2 it is launching an effort to research and develop a vaccine to prevent the Zika virus, after the World Health Organization declared a global emergency over its explosive spread across the Americas, reported The Associated Press.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a level 2 travel alert (Practice Enhanced Precautions) for people traveling to regions and certain countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.
Pregnant women in any trimester should consider postponing travel to the areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Pregnant women who do travel to one of these areas should talk to their doctor or other healthcare provider first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites:
- Dress in long-sleeved shirts and long pants
- Stay indoors when mosquitoes are most active
- Use repellents registered with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- Do not overuse repellent; only apply as much as you need to provide protection
- Read and follow label directions before you use any kind of repellent
Orange County Department of Health suggests women who are pregnant see their healthcare provider if they develop a fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes within two weeks after traveling to a country where Zika virus cases have been reported.
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