Zika virus makes mosquito season worrisome

It’s not mosquito weather yet — heat and humidity still are a few months down the road — but those pesky little creatures Southerners know so well are in the spotlight in an ominous way.

The Western Hemisphere now has a virus to worry about — Zika — and it’s carried and spread by mosquitoes.

Once centered in Asia and Africa, Zika spread eastward to Polynesia, then to Central and South America and the Caribbean, and now is in 21 countries and territories in the Americas. A massive outbreak that started last year in Brazil has produced more than a million cases in recent months.

The virus is working its way northward, with the Centers for Disease Control reporting at least 31 cases in 11 states and the District of Columbia since last year.

Those cases have been “travel associated,” in the CDC’s words. However, the Aedes mosquito, which carries the virus, are present from Florida to Connecticut, according to an entomologist quoted in the Washington Post, and as far west as Illinois.

Given the speed with which the virus has spread elsewhere, government and health officials naturally are concerned that the U.S. will begin seeing mosquito-borne cases, particularly in the South because of the conditions we described.

We’re not dealing with a killer like Ebola. Zika typically produces a mild fever, a rash, conjunctivitis (the once-dreaded “pink eye”) and aches and pains.

The bigger problem is so far anecdotal, but there’s enough smoke to where the CDC and the World Health Organization are investigating, links between the virus and microcephaly — a birth defect that causes small skulls and incomplete brain development — in newborns.

A possible connection with the immune system disorder Guillain-Barre, which can leave its victims paralyzed, also is being probed.

There’s no cure or vaccine for Zika, although research in that direction now is percolating at warp speed. Health experts have urged the U.S. government to prepare for an outbreak.

They don’t expect any outbreak here to be massive, so no one is panicking — although we’re sure there will be some of that in people who stop reading or listening at the word “virus.”

So what should Americans do? How about the same things they’ve been advised to do for years where mosquitoes are concerned?

Eliminate their breeding spots by emptying or getting rid of anything that can hold stagnant water, and use insect repellent when you’re outside and mosquitoes are buzzing around (especially if you’re with child). Municipal governments need to start planning their mosquito control strategy now and approach the task with extra diligence and seriousness this year.

It’s not mosquito weather yet — heat and humidity still are a few months down the road — but those pesky little creatures Southerners know so well are in the spotlight in an ominous way.

Reprinted from the New Bern Sun Journal

Distributed by creators.com

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