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Is Zika in Our Backyard?


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.


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