What is the Zika Virus and what does it do?
The Zika virus is a disease transmitted through mosquitos, especially the “yellow fever mosquito”, which has transmitted other diseases like dengue and chikungunya in the past.
This week, a Texas Citizen recently contracted the disease without traveling outside of the USA–the first to do so. The person received the virus after sexual intercourse with someone who had recently returned from Venezuela. This means the Zika virus can be transmitted sexually.
Currently, the Zika virus causes only a few days of mild symptoms, like a rash, fever, headaches, red eyes, and joint pain. However, the Zika virus has been linked to a birth defect called microcephaly. This is a condition where an infant is born with a smaller brain along with other “poor pregnancy outcomes”, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) . This makes the virus particularly dangerous to pregnant women, who, the CDC recommends postponing travelling to South America and the Caribbean, where the Zika virus is running rampant.
It is also advised to caution yourself on taking a cruise. Many cruises visit Mexico and the Caribbean, among others South American areas that have turned into Zika hotbeds. If you plan taking a cruise in the near future, it’s more important than ever to follow these cruise safety tips.
Zika Virus in Florida
Florida–well known as a breeding ground for mosquitoes — has had 9 confirmed cases of the Zika virus, though none of those infected were pregnant. Two cases have occured in Lee County, four in Miami-Dade County, two in Hillsborough County, and one in Santa Rosa County.
According to the State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health, Dr. John Armstrong, “Florida has many years of success in containing other mosquito-borne diseases and emerging health threats.” He believe that, “through these experiences, the department remains ready to protect residents and visitors from the Zika virus.”
Florida, though, can expect to see more than its average of mosquitos, since it’s winter has been extremely wet. The mosquito population could grow exponentially in South Florida. The CDC has yet to identify Florida as a state of local Zika virus risk. Governor Rick Scott, on the other hand, has placed the four Florida counties where the Zika Virus has been identified in a state of emergency. The governor said, “Although Florida’s current nine Zika cases were travel-related, we have to ensure Florida is prepared and stays ahead of the spread of the Zika virus in our state.” No cases in Florida have demonstrated a mosquito to human transfer, but Gov. Rick Scott intends to stay ahead of the virus.
Zika Virus in Texas
Texas has seen 8 cases of the Zika virus, including the first person to contract the virus without traveling aboard. As stated above, the disease was sexually transmitted by someone who had recently visited South America. As of yet, Texas has made no changes to its mosquito control efforts.
Zika Virus in California
California has seen 6 people infected by the Zika virus in the past three years, all from traveling abroad. The California Department of Public Health does not currently believe it has mosquitoes infected with the virus.
Protecting yourself from the Zika virus
The best way to protect yourself is to avoid visiting South and Central America for the time being.
Still, the virus is migrating all over the world, and so it’s wise to take security measures here. Since mosquitos spread the virus, one way to protect yourself is by limiting mosquitos. Mosquitos needs water to breed, so avoid leaving water hanging around for long periods of time. If you have water in a birdbath or pet bowls, clean it once or twice a week. Do not leave, at all possible, rain water sitting around on garbage cans or in buckets. Empty swimming pools not in use. If you’re covering a boat or vehicle with a tarp, ensure the tarp doesn’t collect water. You can avoid being bitten by wearing skin-covering clothes and insect repellant. Make sure open windows have a screen as well.
Health issues are always a cause for concern, but there is no reason to panic over the Zika virus yet. As of right now, it is not believed that mosquitos carrying the virus have reached the USA. All cases of the virus, expect for the rare sexaually transmitted case, have been caused by people traveling aboard.