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 The ZIKA Virus  

A Decades-old Illness Makes a 21st Century Resurgence  
Winter-Spring 2016

The Zika virus is not new.  It’s been recognized since the late 1940s.  People can contract the Zika virus when bitten by infected mosquitoes—the Aedes aegypti species—the same breed that spreads the dengue and chikungunya viruses. The mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus are NOT native to Georgia. However, Georgia does have at least 20 other types of Aedes mosquitoes.  Like their Zika virus carrying cousins, they are aggressive and bite mostly during the day. They, too, breed in containers and live near people’s homes.  That’s why removing standing water near your home is paramount in preventing mosquito-borne viral diseases.            

The Georgia Department of Public Health has confirmed three travel-related cases of Zika virus in the state.  The individuals who weren’t pregnant have recovered.  DPH cautions travelers, especially women who are pregnant, to postpone travel to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. This link will take you to a list of Zika affected countries:  http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/zika-travel-information.

We have compiled a list relevant facts and frequently asked questions to assist you and your families in understanding this emerging health threat.  As you will read, the Zika virus is not life-threatening to most of the population.  The gravest concern presently is the transmission of the virus from pregnant mothers to their late-term babies.  Zika is believed to be the cause of an increase in the number of infants born with microcephaly (abnormally small brains) in Brazil in 2015.  Further studies are underway to confirm the association of microcephaly with Zika virus infection during pregnancy and to understand any other adverse pregnancy outcomes associated with Zika virus infection.

Frequently Asked Questions

History of the Virus
The virus is named after the Zika forest in Uganda where it was first discovered in 1947. The first human cases of Zika were detected in 1952. Before 2007, at least 14 cases of Zika had been documented in tropical Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. Other cases were likely to have occurred but were not reported because the symptoms of Zika are similar to those of many other diseases. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika.

How do you get the Zika Virus?
Zika is a viral disease that is transmitted to people by the Aedes breed of mosquito.  In the past year, Zika virus infection has been spreading in multiple countries, mainly in the Southern hemisphere of the world where the Aedes mosquito breeds easily in those tropical and subtropical climates.  In May 2015, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infection in Brazil.  On February 1, 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika virus a public health emergency of international concern, a PHEIC.  Local transmission has been reported in many other countries and territories around the world

Has the Zika Virus been reported in the continental United States?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of February 24, 2016, 107 “travel-associated” Zika virus disease cases have been reported in the United States.  NO local mosquito-borne Zika virus cases have been reported in the continental United States.

Is Zika contagious?  
Infected mosquitoes bite people transmitting the virus to them, but Zika does NOT spread like a cold or the flu.  Zika is NOT contagious like measles or chicken pox.   However, the Zika virus CAN be transmitted from mother to child as reported by the CDC:

 Mother to Child

  • A mother already infected with Zika virus near the time of delivery can pass on the virus to her newborn around the time of birth, but this is rare.
  • A mother can pass Zika virus to her fetus during pregnancy. We (the CDC) are studying how Zika affects pregnancies.
  • To date, there are no reports of infants getting Zika virus through breastfeeding. Because of the benefits of breastfeeding, mothers are encouraged to breastfeed even in areas where Zika virus is found.

The Zika virus can also be transmitted through sexual contact as reported by the CDC:    

 Through Sexual Contact (based on reports of three cases):

  •  Zika virus can be spread by a man to his sex partners.
  •  In known cases of likely sexual transmission, the men had Zika symptoms.
  •  In one case, the virus was spread a few days before symptoms developed.

 Is Zika Life-Threatening?    
Typically, Zika is not life-threatening. Its symptoms are not unlike those of many common illnesses.   They generally appear 12 days after a person is bitten by an infected mosquito and last a few days to one week.  Fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes) are the most common symptoms. An estimated 80 percent of persons infected with the Zika virus are asymptomatic, that is, do not show any signs or symptoms.  The CDC says about 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus will develop symptoms.  

How is the Zika Virus treated?
There is no vaccine available to protect humans from the Zika virus infection. However, treating the symptoms you may exhibit is similar to treating yourself when you have a bad cold or the flu.  

The CDC recommends that patients affected by Zika should:

  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Drink fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • Take medicine like acetaminophen (Tylenol) to reduce fever and pain.  
  • Do NOT take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.  That is contraindicated until studies rule out other vector-borne diseases.      
  • Talk to your healthcare provider if you are taking medicine for another medical condition.  

What’s the best way to keep from contracting the Zika Virus?    
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends taking these precautions to guard against being bitten by mosquitoes:  

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens.
  • Use EPA-registered insect repellents on your skin. When used as directed, these insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breast-feeding women.
  • Remove outside water containers or dump out any standing water at least once a week.  
  • Use larvacides such as mosquito dunks or mosquito torpedoes in water that cannot be dumped out.

What is Fulton County doing to protect us during this upcoming mosquito season?

  • The Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness Epidemiologists and Environmental Health Specialists are working in collaboration with with the Georgia Department of Public Health and the CDC to monitor population and environmental health, as well as weather threats that might lead to mosquito outbreaks.
  • As it does each year, the Environmental Health Division oversees mosquito spraying, larviciding and what’s called adulticiding through the services of a licensed pest control company that specializes in this area.   Citizens will recognize these services as part of our anti-West Nile Virus program. Samples near basins and standing water are collected periodically and tested to determine if there’s a problem, and to take immediate action should infected mosquitoes be present.  
  • The EHS staff also performs outreach education at health fairs, community meetings and neighborhood meetings.   To schedule a speaker or get more information, call 404-613-1304.

For general information about Zika virus and surveillance for mosquito-borne diseases in Georgia, call the Georgia Department of Public Health at 404‐657‐2588 or visit their website at http://dph.georgia.gov/zoonoticvector-borneinfestations.  For national Zika virus data, visit the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at http://www.cdc.gov/zika/index.html.

Fulton County—Working to Ensure that All People are Healthy!