2016-02-17 / Front Page

Don’t Panic Over Zika Virus Threat

Kim Cupp, Fulton County Health Commissioner, said there is no reason to panic over the Zika virus.

The virus has made the news because it has been associated with birth defects in children in South America, in areas where the virus is present.

Specifically, affected children are born with microcephaly, a medical term that means the child’s head is smaller than expected.

But Cupp cautioned that so far, microcephaly is only possibly associated with Zika virus. There still is a lot scientists don’t know, she said.

As a result, Cupp said the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta has issued travel advisories, specifically for pregnant women or women trying to get pregnant, urging them to postpone travel to countries where Zika is known to be circulating.

Specifically, the advisories pertain to areas in Central and South America and parts of the Caribbean.

What Is Zika

Cupp said the Zika virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947.

It was discovered in South America in May 2015.

It is transmitted to humans primarily through mosquito bites, although there has been one confirmed case in the United States of the disease being transmitted sexually.

In that case, one of the partners had returned from a trip from an affected country and passed it to a nontraveling partner.

Like the West Nile virus, 80% of people infected with Zika virus have no symptoms.

Symptoms including a fever, headache, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis, or red eyes.

Most cases are mild. Se- vere cases requiring hospitalizations are uncommon.

Like West Nile, those most in danger of Zika are young children whose immune systems are not fully formed; those who suffer from diseases that compromise their immune systems, such as HIV, or frail elderly people.

As of Friday, Feb. 12, the Ohio Department of Health reported four cases of Zika virus in Ohio, all among people who had traveled to countries where the virus was circulating.

The first Ohio case involved a 30-year-old woman who had returned to her Cleveland home after a visit to Haiti.

Nationwide, the CDC reported 35 cases in 12 states and the District of Columbia.

The Mosquito

The Ohio Department of Health website indicates the primary mosquito that transmits Zika is the yellow fever mosquito, known by its scientific name, Aedes aegypti.

The yellow fever mosquito is only found primarily in southern and tropical areas of the United States.

Aedes aegypti is not found in Ohio.

Another type of mosquito found in Ohio may transmit Zika, but it has not yet been proven to carry the virus.

“There is no vaccine available for Zika virus, so it’s important for Ohioans traveling to affected areas to take steps to prevent mosquito bites,” said Dr. Mary DiOrio, medical director of the Ohio Department of Health.

“There have been no reported cases of Zika virus disease transmission through mosquito bites anywhere in the continental U.S.

“Prevention of mosquitoborne Zika virus transmission is the same as prevention of any other mosquito borne diseases.

“This includes taking precautions to prevent mosquito bites– such as using insect repellents, limiting exposure where and when mosquitoes are most active, and removing breeding sources such as containers that collect standing water.”

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