Zika virus likely to spread in U.S.

Mosquito that carries Zika has been found in 30 states. As warm weather spreads, they likely will too.

Two of the nation’s leading health organizations came together on April 11 to warn of the dangers associated with the pending mosquito season and the impact Zika could have on our nation.

In its joint statement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes for Health (NIH) addressed the evolving situation associated with Zika, the mosquito-borne virus that has spread through many countries south of the lower 48 states since January.

Will Zika reach Greater Louisville? Paul Schulz, M.D., system epidemiologist for Norton Healthcare, answers this and other common questions:

Isn’t the mosquito only found in tropical locations?
The answer to this question is unknown at this time, however, predictive models from the CDC and NIH show the potential for the Aedes aegypti mosquito making its way to the United States and spreading as far north as the Ohio Valley. Because of our warm, humid summers, Greater Louisville could see the mosquito that carries the Zika virus.

Is there a vaccine for the Zika virus?
No. At this time there is not a vaccine for the Zika virus. Studies are underway to determine if a vaccine is a viable option.

Can the Zika virus be caught from a sneeze?

No. The virus is not spread through sneezing. Zika is transmitted by the Aedes species of mosquito. If a person is bit by this specific species and contracts the Zika virus, they are considered a carrier. Symptoms may or may not be noticeable. For women, the most significant concern with being a carrier is if she is pregnant or becomes pregnant and transmits the virus to her unborn child. The most commonly studied person-to-person transmission is from men who are infected with the virus (whether they have symptoms or not) transmitting the virus to other women or men through sexual contact.

I thought only pregnant women or women planning a family should be concerned?
This is not true. Yes, the biggest impact of the Zika virus is the potential for unborn babies to develop microcephaly, a birth defect that causes smaller than normal heads and brain damage.

However, Zika virus infection may cause Guillain-Barre syndrome, an uncommon nervous system condition in which a person’s immune system damages the nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometime paralysis. The CDC has yet to draw a direct correlation between Zika and Guillain-Barre.

The Aedes species of mosquito, which carries the Zika virus, is the same type of mosquito that carries the chikungunya and dengue fever viruses. Although these viruses can make you sick, the focus right now is on Zika and preventing birth defects.

Continue to stay up-to-date on the latest information regarding the Zika virus by visiting the CDC’s website at CDC.gov/Zika.

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