A new fight faces us: Zika. From nearly unknown to daily headline news in less than a year – the mosquito borne Zika virus is grabbing our attention like no other since malaria. And rightfully so because with increasing certainty, it’s effects are more than flu-like symptoms. It’s deforming newborns for life, and in some cases, death, due to microcephaly.
In Brazil, where the virus is prolifically spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, 150 cases of babies born with microcephaly were correlated to Mothers who had had Zika at conception or during pregnancy. Fast forward to last quarter of 2015 and the number of new cases exceeded 3,500.
This excellent podcast (NPR Jan 20, 2016 “The Zika Virus Moves North”) discusses the knowns and unknowns of the disease with epidemiologists from two leading universities.
The virus thus far is vectored primarily in the southern hemisphere.
Our hope in the states is that the virus does not ‘leap’ to the Aedes aegypti populations here, which are now found as far north as Massachusetts, down the Eastern coast to Florida, Texas, Arizona and California.
What should we do?
- This places more importance than ever on surveillance and larval source reduction by public health officials.
- Check the CDC website for travel advisories before going to any warm climate country.
- More than ever, heed protection cautions: wear mosquito repellent, long sleeve clothing, avoid being outdoors during prime biting hours for Aedes aegypti – which is 2 hrs AFTER sunrise and several hours BEFORE sunset. This is different than most North American mosquito species.