While the Zika virus has been around since 1947, it has not been recognized as a legitimate threat to the United States until very recently. Zika is a potent virus carried by mosquitoes. Until 2007, the virus was limited to Africa only. Since then, it has spread to the South Pacific and to other tropical regions, such as the Caribbean. Zika is particularly concerned about pregnant women who may have birth anomalies, such as microcephaly, for their unborn babies. However, it can also cause fever, rash, headaches and joint pain in anyone affected by it for up to a week.
Zika is transmitted by the bite of a mosquito. However, it can also be transferred between sexual partners. The species of mosquitoes that carry the virus include Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. Currently, only A. aegypti has spread Zika in the United States; This species is mostly present in warmer states with more tropical climates. However, it can reach as far north as Ohio in the Midwest and Connecticut along the eastern seaboard. While A. albopictus may carry Zika, it has not yet been known to do so in the United States
The latest information shows that the majority of Zika cases in the United States are travel-related, meaning they are caused by a person being bitten by an affected mosquito while traveling out of the country. The only place in the United States that has been hit by locally infected mosquitoes is a small area of Miami just north of downtown. Florida, Texas, California, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York have all reported more than 200 cases each with over 600 reported in Florida. The states that report between 50 to 100 cases include Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Illinois and Michigan.
Being proactive towards Zika
Because Zika is spread by mosquitoes, it is important that you learn how to prevent mosquito bites wherever you live, and especially if you are traveling out of the United States. You should be aware that virus-coated mosquitoes bite during the day and night. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using insecticides with high levels of EPA-registered active ingredients, such as DEET, Picaridine, lemon eucalyptus oil, para-mentanediol or IR3535. Some examples of approved repellent brand names include Off !, Cutter Advanced, Repel, and SkinSmart. These remedies are safe, even for pregnant women to use as well as for all children over two months. In addition, you will be best protected if you wear shirts with long sleeves, long pants and repellent treated shoes and socks when you are out. In addition, cover mesh carriers to protect very young infants from being bitten.
The only other way you can get Zika other than from a mosquito bite is from sexual contact with a person who has the virus. To protect this type of transmission, always use a male or female condom during intercourse. Condoms should be used during vaginal, anal and oral sex to prevent transmission from semen or vaginal fluid. Make sure that a person can transmit the virus before the symptoms begin and even after the symptoms end.
This is just the beginning of Zika
The United States government maintains a close monitoring system of Zika cases throughout the United States as well as in Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and American Samoa. The Miami local government has taken steps to contain and prevent future outbreaks by using aerial spraying in some neighborhoods. In addition, President Obama has asked Congress to approve emergency funding for vaccine development, virus testing and state and local financial assistance.
The government does not believe the mosquitoes carrying Zika will travel much further north than they already are, which is in Florida and Texas. However, travel-related issues can expand if people do not take proper precautions when traveling. Locally acquired cases are most likely in Texas and Florida, although the mosquitoes that can carry Zika can go as far north as Iowa and New Hampshire and as far west as California.
If you develop symptoms that are compliant with Zika or have traveled to another country affected by the virus, you should be tested. In addition, if you had unprotected sex with a person who has or has had Zika, your doctor may recommend testing. This is especially important for pregnant women. Testing can be done by blood or urine tests. A test known as real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction testing, or rRT-PCR, can be done within two weeks of symptom onset. It can also be performed on pregnant women who do not currently have any symptoms but who traveled to an affected country.
Although this new information about Zika should not cause panic, you should work consistently to prevent the transmission of the virus by preventing mosquito bites and by practicing protected sex when using condoms.