The Zika virus is not new. According to the World Health Organization Data, Zika was originally found in Rhesus Monkeys in the Zika Forest region of Uganda in 1947. The first known human case was found in 1952 in Uganda. Zika is spread through the Aedes (sp.) Mosquito. Compared to other Mosquito borne viruses like Dengue Fever, West Nile virus, and chikungunya; the symptoms of Zika are usually mild. (Cobb, 2016)
Only one out of five people (20%) infected with Zika have any symptoms. Those that are symptomatic may develop joint pain, fever, rash, and red itchy eyes. Symptoms develop between 2-7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. In 1964, a researcher in Uganda was infected with Zika while working on the virus. Between 1969 and 1983, Zika was found in mosquitos in equatorial Asia (including India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Pakistan). Subsequently, outbreaks were found in French Polynesia in 2013 with over 10,000 cases being documented. Seventy of those cases involved severe neurological symptoms.
By 2015, Zika had spread into the Americas by way of Brazil, including a number of cases of microcephaly among newborns. By January 2016, Brazil had reported over 3,000 cases of microcephaly including 49 deaths. Since the major outbreak in Brazil, Zika has been found throughout the Caribbean, and into the southern United States, with the first case of sexually transmitted Zika found in Texas in February 2016.
US health officials issued a travel warning for 14 countries and territories in the Caribbean and Latin America where infection with Zika is a risk. The CDC cautioned pregnant women not to travel to those areas as Zika has been linked to serious birth defects. (Control)
As of January 2017, 211 cases of locally transmitted Zika have been found in Florida, and 6 in Texas. Actual human cases may be much higher because up to 80% of the cases may not show symptoms.
RISK AND PROTECTION
Zika is primarily transmitted by the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito which is found throughout the southern United States. Most people think of mosquitos biting early morning or around dusk; however the Aedes mosquito is unusual by being active throughout the day, so you must protect yourself anytime you are outside, even if it is only for a short time. Anyone outdoors in mosquito-prone areas should protect themselves by wearing long sleeves, pants, and light-colored loosely fitting clothing to prevent mosquitos from biting. Exposed skin is best protected with products containing DEET, although other repellants for skin application are available. See the U.S. EPA website for the repellant calculator: https://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/find-insect-repellent-right-you.
As Texas is a jumping off point for many travelling to Mexico and other Latin American countries where Zika is common; anyone travelling should be especially careful to avoid being bitten by mosquitos and to continue to wear repellent after returning to the U.S. for at least a week. Even if you feel well, you may have been exposed to the virus and not know it. Zika has also been found able to be sexually transmitted.
Aedes mosquitos are able to breed in very small amounts of standing water. Any container that can hold water and organic material such as grass cuttings or leaves for 1-2 weeks is a great breeding ground. Although, Aedes mosquitos do not generally fly more that 600-700 feet from their larval breeding site; areas around a residential or commercial building that hold water are particularly susceptible to becoming a source of breeding areas for mosquitos. A very small breeding site can produce hundreds of mosquitos a day.
If your Company has facilities in Texas, you should be especially careful to maintain the areas around that site and clean areas that may hold water. Employees or visitors walking to and from their vehicles are potential victims of mosquito bites and one infected employee could cause a problem for many others. Women who may become pregnant are a particular concern due to the high incidence of birth defects in pregnant women infected with Zika.
For additional information and links to resources: http://preventingzika.org/ (Swiger, 2016) (Merchant, 2016)
Cobb, L. J. (2016). News March 18. Clinical Infectious Diseases.
Contro, C. f. (n.d.). Zika Virus. https://www.cdc.gov/.
Merchant, M. (2016). Professor and Extension Urban Entomologist. College Station: Texas A&M Agrilife Extension.
Swiger, S. L. (2016). Assistant Professor and Extension Livestock/Veterrinary Entomologist. College Station: Texas A&M Agrilife Extension.