An old virus spread primarily through infected mosquitoes has caught the attention of health officials across the world, and Arizona is no exception.
The Arizona Department of Health Services has confirmed four cases of Zika virus as of June 3. All are travel-associated, meaning the four persons diagnosed with Zika were infected elsewhere, not in Arizona.
The virus has swept across countries in South and Central America after a case was confirmed in Brazil in May 2015. Earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika virus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
The first known Zika virus case was reported in 1947 in Africa. It is spread by mosquito species such as Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. In the 1950s, cases were diagnosed in Africa and Asia, in areas along the Equator. Starting in 2007, Zika cases crossed the Pacific and spread to the Americas.
Zika virus isnít fatal, and people infected usually donít get sick enough to go to the doctor, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In fact, four out of five people infected with the virus donít even experience the common symptoms: fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes and headache. If ill, recovery could take a week or more, and people infected are likely immune to catching the virus again.
Still, the Zika virus is a concern. There is no vaccine or treatment for it, and it can cause severe birth defects in children. A rare condition in which babies are born with unusually small heads (microcephaly) has been linked to Zika virus. As of June 3, two babies were born with Zika-related birth defects in the U.S., according to multiple media reports, with both mothers having recently lived in Central or South America.
Itís unclear how many people have been infected with Zika through the years because itís believed many cases are mild and go unreported.
Acquired vector-borne cases have been reported in Mexico, but none have reached the Mexico states bordering Arizona, according to the CDC. Sixty countries and territories across the world have reported mosquito-borne transmissions as of June 2, according to the WHO.
Here is a summary of information related to Zika, according to the CDC and the Arizona Department of Health Services.
How mosquitoews factor in the Zika virus
Zika virus is spread primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito, a species common in Arizona. Not even the sun or the Arizona heat can protect you from these mosquitoes. The insect is an aggressive daytime biter, but it also can attack at night. Itís known as the cockroach of the mosquito family, said Christopher Henke, environmental health manager for the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. ďThe mosquito is very prevalent,Ē Henke said. ďIt breeds really easily and does quite well here in Arizona.Ē
How to prevent mosquito bites
Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants. Stay inside in places with window and door screens or air-conditioning to keep mosquitoes out. Use insect repellents and always follow the product instructions. Be sure to apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.
Use Permethrin to treat clothing and gear. Permethrin is registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as an insecticide for use against mosquitoes as well many other insects.
Get rid of standing water where mosquitoes can breed. This will be especially important in the coming weeks during Arizonaís monsoon season. Henke said even a bottle cap of standing water is enough for mosquitoes to breed.
The risk for Zika in Arizona
No local mosquito-borne Zika virus disease cases have been reported in the United States, but there have been travel-associated cases. Zika could be introduced in Arizona if someone was infected with Zika virus while traveling to an infected region and then was bitten by a mosquito after returning to Arizona during the first few days of the illness. This infected mosquito in Arizona could then spread the disease to other people in Arizona.
State, county and local mosquito-control agencies and public health agencies are working together to investigate diseases caused by mosquitoes in order to detect and prevent disease spread. Both the state and county test for mosquitoes regularly. SRPMIC also regularly tests mosquitoes in the Community and sprays areas known for mosquitoes.
Other ways Zika virus can spread
Zika virus can also spread through sexual contact. Couples in which a man had a confirmed Zika virus infection or illness consistent with Zika should use condoms or abstain from sexual contact for at least six months. There has been no documentation of sexual transmission of Zika virus from a woman to a man.
When to get tested for Zika
Itís important to get tested if you visited a Zika-affected area and have developed any disease-related symptoms. Pregnant women who have traveled to a Zika-affected area, even if not showing signs of illness, should get tested. Anyone who has had sexual contact with a man who has traveled to a Zika-affected area and has symptoms should be tested. For a map of Zika-affected areas, visit www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/index.html.
Zika virus symptoms
Zika virus symptoms develop within two to seven days of being infected. One in five people infected will develop signs or symptoms, which include rash, fever, joint pain, red eyes and headache. Although there is no medicine to treat Zika, acetaminophen can help reduce fever and pain. Those infected should get plenty of rest and stay hydrated.
For more information on Zika virus in Arizona, visit www.azhealth.gov/mosquito and www.cdc.gov/zika.