Is Zika in Our Backyard?
With warmer temperatures and longer days, it’s prime season for outdoor
activities. But with the recent reports of mosquitoes carrying the Zika
virus lurking as close as
Tega Cay, South Carolina, many are questioning whether they should take the fun and games inside
to avoid potential Zika threats.
Where did it come from?
First identified as a virus that specifically affected pregnant women,
Zika has spread throughout South America and the Caribbean, making its
way into portions of the United States. As of July 13, 2016, the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports no locally–acquired, mosquito-borne cases in the United
States. However, there have been 1,305 travel-associated cases reported
in the U.S., with North Carolina reporting 18 cases and neighboring South
Carolina reporting 13. Simply put, Zika has been brought into the U.S.
largely through travel to and from Central and South America.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of the Zika virus include a slight fever and rash, appearing a
few days after a person has been bitten by an infected mosquito. People
may also feel tired, experience joint pain or develop conjunctivitis (red eyes).
According to Vicki Allen, Infection Prevention Director at CaroMont Health,
symptoms are so mild that many will not even realize that they’ve
been infected and usually aren’t sick enough to go to the doctor.
If you do have any of the symptoms and have traveled to an area with known
Zika virus, you should see your physician. This is especially important
if you are pregnant.
Even though symptoms are generally mild and last less than a week, women
who are pregnant can pass the virus to their fetus, which can result in
potential birth defects including microcephaly in babies. Microcephaly
is a condition in which a baby’s head is significantly smaller than
expected, often due to abnormal brain development. Scientists at the CDC
have concluded that Zika virus is a cause of microcephaly and other severe
fatal brain defects. This does not mean that all women who have Zika during
pregnancy will have babies with these problems, but the risk factor would
be higher for those women who’ve contracted Zika virus. There have
been three documented cases of babies born in the U.S. with Zika-virus
related microcephaly (New Jersey, New York and Hawaii).
What’s the treatment?
Currently, there is no specific drug or vaccine for Zika virus, but the
symptoms of the disease can be treated with common pain and fever medicines,
rest and plenty of water.
So, what can I do to protect myself?
Before traveling out of the country, check the
CDC website for the latest travel notices about areas with Zika.
Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus bite both indoors and outdoors and mostly
during the day. It is important to follow basic prevention efforts in
avoiding mosquito bites, including use of an EPA-registered insect repellent.
The CDC recommends using insect repellents that contain one of the following
ingredients: DEET (20% to 30% concentration is best, according to the
CDC), picaridin, oil-of-lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane–diol or
IR3535. Covering exposed skin can offer additional protection.
Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and standing water –
it only takes a tiny, bottle cap-sized pool of water for mosquitoes to
lay as many as 200 eggs.
So while the Zika virus may have made its way to North and South Carolina,
there’s no need to run for the hills, just yet. Simple planning
and prevention tips will help keep you and your family out of the woods
when it comes to this virus.