After crossing to Latin America from Africa, the first confirmed cases of the Zika virus are being detected in the United States.
The mosquito-borne virus has been linked to birth defects in Brazil, and 7 cases have been detected in Florida and three other states. Now health officials have stated that the infection should be watched closely as it has been brought into the country by returning travelers.
Travelers returning from Latin America spread virus
While zika does not spread from person to person, mosquitoes could feed on returning travelers carrying the disease before transmitting it to others. Of paramount concern is protecting pregnant women from bites, as well as those who plan to become pregnant.
In Brazil a rising number of babies born with microcephaly, a rare brain birth defect which has been linked to zika. The virus is considered epidemic in the South American nation.
“That’s a concern for us here because we are a major tourist destination for visitors from the epidemic areas,” said Dr. Antonio Crespo, an infectious disease specialist at Orlando Health. The list of countries most affected by the virus is filled with nations in Latin America.
“Someone who is infected could come here to Orlando, for example, making it possible to spread the virus to (Florida),” Crespo said.
Aedes mosquito responsible for zika transmission
Those infected with the virus carry it for around two weeks after showing symptoms. Take extra care to prevent bites, dump standing water around property and report all Zika symptoms to health professionals.
The Aedes mosquito is most likely to spread the virus, and is found in tropical climates including Florida. The Aedes are active during the day, while other species mainly come out at night.
“These mosquitoes are resourceful at breeding in containers, puddles, gutters, anything where water collects. And they have a short flight range, so they tend to stay around structures, homes, buildings and people,” said Jim Fredericks, chief entomologist and vice president of the National Pest Management Association.
The dangers to non-pregnant sufferers are minimal, with symptoms including fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, skin rash and conjunctivitis. Most people do not notice that they have been affected and the condition ends after a week or two.
As it stands there is no vaccine and no treatment for zika.