As spring turns to summer and mosquito season revs up, here in the Greater Hartford area we need to up our prevention game against the might mosquito. Will Zika be a threat in Hartford ? As we know, here in Connecticut we face a double whammy: the possibilities of spreading both the Zika and West Nile Virus over the summer months.
Why should we be concerned about Zika in Connecticut?
There are 2 reasons:
- Although the Aedes Aegypti mosquito- the Zika carrying mosquito- had originally only been found in Brazil and other warm climates throughout South and Central American countries, the latest reports from the CDC is that since 2015, these mosquitos have been migrating northward and are expected to travel further northwards into North America as summer progresses. Why? Many scientists believe that global warming has produced more of the moist, warmer breeding ground these “sip feeders”, insects that survive taking small amounts of blood from people, thrive on, and are now migrating to traditionally cooler parts of the world.
- The second and more concerning threat, up until this date, has been that of people, especially pregnant women, traveling back and forth from Zika affected countries, returning to Connecticut with the Zika virus, and passing it on here, as it is highly transmittable. In the Hartford area there is a large population of people of Puerto Rican descent who travel back and forth from the island, especially once school lets out in just a few weeks.
So what can be done to lessen the threat of Zika? The most important thing we can do is the obvious: to not get bitten by a mosquito, and to try and steer clear of mosquito infected area’s.
Here are 9 things you can do to prevent contracting Zika:
- Stay in places with air conditioning, and/or which have window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
- Do not leave any uncovered standing water where mosquitos can breed, such as a baby pool.
- Wear light colored, loose, long sleeves and pants. And socks!
- If camping, sleep under mosquito netting. *Note that the mosquito carrying Zika bites mostly during daytime hours.
- Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol. Choosing an EPA-registered repellent ensures the EPA has evaluated the product for effectiveness. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breast-feeding women.
- To protect your child from mosquito bites:
- Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old.
- Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children younger than 3 years old.
- Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs.
- Cover crib, stroller, and baby carrier with mosquito netting.
- Do not apply insect repellant onto a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, and cut or irritated skin.
- Adults: Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.
- Prevent sexual transmission of Zika by using condoms or not having sex with someone who has been in an infected area
- If traveling to infected states and countries this summer, be vigilant.
- Steer clear of known Zika affected countries! We understand this is a tough one, but until and unless we have a vaccine to combat Zika, taking the chance of contracting the virus could be much tougher in the long run.
How is Zika transmitted?
4 ways that we are aware of right now:
- Via mosquito bites from the Aedes mosquito
- Through infected blood
- Through sexual contact
- From a pregnant mother to her unborn child
What are the Symptoms of Zika Virus?
In many instances symptoms are minor, so monor that up to 80% of the people who have contracted Zika don’t realize they have the virus. In fact, one in five people who contract Zika have few or no symptoms.
Symptoms can include fever, rash, joint and muscle pain and conjunctivitis (pink eye).
The most alarming thing we’ve recently discovered about Zika is that the disease is mostly a threat for women who are pregnant or who want to conceive because it can cause serious birth defects.
Zika has been linked, undeniably now, to profound brain defects in unborn children, most notably to microcephaly, a condition that causes an infants head to develop much smaller than normal, incomplete brain development and other profound brain abnormalities.
In addition to microcephaly, researchers have found that the virus seems to kill off the tissue in entire regions of the brain, damage babies’ eyes, and heighten the risk of miscarriage and fetal death as well as other neurological complications.
Researchers believe pregnant women are at the greatest risk of having babies with birth defects if they are infected in the first trimester. They’ve also estimated that women infected with Zika during the first trimester of their pregnancies face a 1 in 100 chance of delivering a baby with microcephaly. These are high statistics.
Is there a Zika Vaccine yet?
No, not yet, however, we should be proud that there is currently research being done to create a Zika vaccine , right here in Connecticut at UConn, where a Brazilian virologist, Dr. Paulo Verardi and his team are predicting a preliminary vaccine that they hope to have available for testing soon.
At this point in time, awareness, vigilance and education are the key weapons we have to prevent against Zika. If traveling to Zika affected countries or states this summer, be sure to discuss prevention with any of our providers during a travel consultation at AFC Urgent Care West Hartford, where any of our providers are more than happy to answer any questions you might have about Zika or any other travel related health issues.
Do you need a travel consultation or travel immunizations? Save time, check in online. Any questions? Feel free to call us at (860) 986 6440