Reminder: There is no vaccine to prevent or treat Zika. All you can do is take precautions to reduce mosquito populations and mosquito bites. You should protect yourself against mosquito bites on your person by using DEET-based mosquito repellents, by wearing long sleeve shirts and pants when outdoors, and by staying indoors with air conditioning when mosquitoes are most active. Women who are pregnant should consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Although the Zika virus is transmitted primarily by mosquitoes, sexual transmission of Zika virus from a male partner is possible. If your partner is from a Zika area or has recently visited there, use proper protection.
It is important to reduce mosquito populations on your property by removing all standing water. This mosquito season, we strongly recommend that you consider a mosquito control program. See Cowleys Mosquito Control Program. Also, make sure that all of your screens are in good condition now that the temperatures are warm enough for us to start opening our windows to air out our homes.
The CDC believes that there may be clusters of Zika infections in the United States, but there will not be a widespread transmission. The Rutgers Center for Vector Biology holds similar views for potential Zika outbreaks in New Jersey. The Center believes that there may only be isolated cases because the habitats for the most likely vector of the virus, the Asian Tiger mosquito, are scattered and New Jersey counties all have strong mosquito control agencies. See Rutgers Zika Virus Statement.
Florida: The first person-to-person Zika virus infection was recently confirmed in central Florida near Lakeland. Statewide, 52 people have contracted the virus in Florida since the state began reporting infections in February. Most of the cases, about half, have been in the Miami-Dade area. Other than the one person-to-person case, all of the other virus infections have been contracted by people traveling outside the United States in known Zika zones. There have been no locally acquired Zika cases in Florida, or for that matter anywhere else in the continental United States or Hawaii. Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency over the Zika virus threat in four counties, most notably, Miami-Dade. So far, Florida is the only state in the continental United States to declare a Zika virus state of emergency. Hawaii also declared a state of emergency in February.
Puerto Rico: The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is an active Zika zone in the Caribbean, and the CDC is calling Zika in this U.S. territory a “challenge and crisis.” For Zika zones in the Caribbean, see CDC alert notice. The Aedes aegypti mosquito the carries Zika is widespread in Puerto Rico, and cases of Zika are doubling weekly. The CDC expects hundreds of thousands of individuals will become infected, including thousands of infected women.
The Zika virus has recently been linked to two more serious medical conditions:
1. Meningoencephalitis: a dangerous inflammation of both the brain (encephalitis) and the brain’s membranes (meningitis). The Zika virus had been found in the spinal fluid of a man diagnosed with meningoencephalitis who had been in “perfect health” before returning from a vacation to several islands in the South Pacific near New Zealand. Several South Pacific islands have reported ongoing transmission of the Zika virus. The CDC recently added several South Pacific island nations to its list of Zika zones. For Zika zones in the Pacific Islands, see CDC alert notice. There are many other viruses that can cause inflammation of the central nervous system, including the West Nile Virus, which is also transmitted by mosquitoes.
2. Myelitis: an inflammation of the spinal cord that can affect limb movement and cause paralysis. Some patients are left with permanent damage. A teenage girl residing on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe with high levels of Zika in her cerebrospinal fluid, blood, and urine was diagnosed with acute myelitis.
The Zika virus has already been linked to two serious medical conditions:
1. Microcephaly: A birth defect in which babies are born with abnormally small heads and, often, incomplete brain development. Brazil has confirmed more than 640 cases of microcephaly and considers most of them to be related to Zika infections in the mother. More than 4,200 additional cases of microcephaly are being investigated.
2. Guillain-Barre syndrome: A rare neurological condition in which the body’s immune system attacks the nerves and can cause paralysis and death.