What is the Zika virus?
A disease that is primarily spread to people through the bite of an infected Aedes species of mosquito.
Brief History of the Disease
The Zika virus was first discovered in 1947, and only 12 human cases of the infection were recorded over the next 40 years. But since 2007, outbreaks have been recorded in the tropical forests of Africa, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, and now in South and Central America and the Caribbean.
Transmission of Zika
The virus may be transmitted from human to human, which is not unusual among mosquito-borne illnesses, for e.g. malaria. Like malaria, Zika may be transmitted from an infected mother to her unborn fetus and through blood transfusions. However, unlike malaria, the Zika virus may also be transmitted through unprotected sexual relations.
Symptoms and Ailments
Common symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes, that may last for several days to a week. Symptoms for 80% of those infected are minor. However, if a fetus is exposed at any time during pregnancy, it may develop a brain disorder called microcephaly, which results in an abnormally small brain.
Zika Virus in the U.S.
As of April 2016, no cases of the virus being contracted by mosquito bites had yet been recorded in U.S. However, travel to affected areas has resulted in more than 300 cases. Six cases resulted from personal relationships, 19 involved pregnancies, and there has been at least one case of microcephaly in the U.S. Mosquitoes carrying the disease will likely migrate to U.S. throughout the summer, with southern and mid-Atlantic states most at risk.
How can Public Entities Minimize Risk?
Communicate with constituencies and spread word in communities regarding potential ramifications. Alert employees to potential risks and how to protect themselves through wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants and the use of mosquito netting. Offer advice about the different types of insect repellents and how to use them properly. Eliminate standing water and be prepared to ramp up mosquito repellent programs.