[dropcap]Z[/dropcap]ika has officially touched down in South Florida over the summer. With the virus now being confirmed in Florida’s mosquitos rather than the previous travel-related cases the next necessary step in controlling this outbreak further is community understanding and prevention.
Mosquitos have been associated with many different diseases over time. Mosquitos are regular residents here in Florida and can make the summer fun a little more irritating and itchy. Previously, mosquitos have been known for transmitting diseases like malaria, yellow fever, and West Nile Virus according to the Center for Disease Control’s website. However, the first large outbreak of the Zika virus has brought this pesky Florida resident back into the spotlight.
The Zika virus was first discovered in the Zika Forest of Uganda in 1947. Most confirmed cases of the virus were confined to Africa and parts of Southeast Asia even in these countries the cases Zika Virus were rare. However in 2007 the virus spread into an epidemic and lead to the outbreak in many countries like parts of South America, Mexico, and now North America.
With the Zika Virus landing in Florida in late July the outbreak has been contained to a one square mile area in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami. The Center for Disease Control reports this neighborhood was the first to see a case of Zika in the United States through a local mosquito bite. The Zika virus is primarily spread to people through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. According to the Centers for Disease Control here in the United States: there have been 35 locally acquired mosquito-borne cases, roughly 2,686 travel- associated cases, and 23 sexually transmitted cases. All 35 of the locally acquired cases in the United States are from the state of Florida.
The symptoms of Zika, or rather, the lack of symptoms are cause for concern. Most people who contract the disease are not aware that they have it. According to Amesh Adalji, MD, a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America,[pullquote] Only one in five people with the virus will exhibit symptoms.”[/pullquote]
Zika doesn’t present any symptoms outside of a mild fever, rash, or conjunctivitis (red, irritated eyes) and even those symptoms can be rare and usually run their course within a week of contracting the virus. The possible ignorance to being infected coupled with unprotected sex can cause the spread of the disease through sexual transmission. The only way to be tested for Zika presently is through blood or urine tests. The test may be important to those couples wanting to start a family who are in hopes of preventing this disease from spreading or affecting a fetus with microcephaly. This condition causes babies’ head to be smaller than normal, which stunts brain growth. Zika can contribute to these issues due to the suggested length of time it can stay in the reproductive organs. Women with the Zika virus are thought to be carriers of the sexually transmitted disease for up to eight weeks after symptoms begin, and men who have contracted the Zika virus can carry the disease for at least six months after symptoms begin. The use of protection can reduce of receiving the disease through sex.
Currently, no vaccines exist to prevent the Zika Virus. However according to the National Institute of Health scientist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) are initiating clinical trials on a vaccine for Zika. This vaccine has a similar make up that was developed for the West Nile virus, another disease transmitted by mosquitoes. And at the University of Wisconsin are currently testing the theory that once people have contracted Zika they are then immune to the virus; for how long is unknown.
If not bitten by the bug, other prevention does exist, but many Floridians may already know all too well from summer camp. The best way to steer clear of Zika these next few months is to avoid mosquito bites, which might sound impossible here in Florida. The advised prevention methods are to limit your time outside around dawn and dusk when mosquitos are most active and if you have to be outside for longer periods of time wear mosquito repellent, the Center for Disease Control recommends a repellent that contains: DEET, oil-of lemon- eucalyptus, picaridin, or para-menthane-diol some of these ingredients can be found in name brands like Off!, Cutter, Skinsmart, and Ultrathon. Covering up more skin with longer layers can keep the bites at bay as well. Use screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitos outside of your home. To prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs or congregating near your place of residence try getting rid of standing water which is found in planters, buckets, old tires, trash bins, and flower pots.
Unfortunately Florida is only a little more than half way through the current hurricane season of this year. The recent storm brought large amounts of rain to the central Florida area and flooding to towns closer to the Gulf coast and along the panhandle. Endless puddles of standing water have begun to pop up just about everywhere, creating a perfect nesting ground for our infamous friend to set up shop.