Undoubtedly, you have heard about Zika from the media. Zika Virus Disease is a disease caused by the Zika virus. It is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. At this time, this mosquito is not found in CT. However CT will monitor for this mosquito and test those persons who may have gotten this infection while traveling. As of February 12, 2016, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that it is not anticipated that there will be widespread transmission of Zika on mainland United States. CDC will continue to monitor this virus and will issue guidance as indicated.
Currently, the biggest concern about Zika for CT residents would be for those who have traveled to (or plan to travel) to areas where Zika is prevalent. This is especially important for women who are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant. Knowledge of the link between Zika and microcephaly, a condition in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age, as well as other poor pregnancy outcomes, is being evaluated, but until more is known, CDC recommends special precautions for women who are pregnant (in any trimester) or women who are trying to become pregnant. CDC suggests consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. If you must travel to one of these areas, talk to your doctor first and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during your trip. For more questions and answers on Zika and pregnancy, see Questions and Answers: Zika and pregnancy(http://www.cdc.gov/zika/pregnancy/question-answers.html).
There are also some reports that Zika may be transmitted sexually and may be more common that was known before the recent outbreak in South America. CDC continues to evaluate and monitor this. CDC recommends that men who travel to endemic areas should abstain from sexual activity with a pregnant partner, or use condoms, for the duration of the pregnancy.
QVHD, your local health department, reminds you that there are other mosquito-borne illnesses (West Nile, Dengue, Chikungunya, and Eastern Equine Encephalitis) that are preventable if precautions are taken to prevent mosquito bites. While Zika is not currently an issue for our area, it is important to protect yourself from mosquito bites as there are other mosquito-borne illnesses that have occurred in our state, such as West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis.
The best protection against any mosquito is the use of an EPA-registered (Environmental Protection Agency) insect repellent (according to the directions) when you are in areas that expose you to mosquitoes. In CT, eliminating stagnant sources of water (water without motion or animal life) will help decrease mosquito breeding. Protecting your indoor environment will also decrease your chances of getting bitten.
The information presented here is adapted from www.cdc.gov. You can get more information there as well as travel information. For written information on Zika, Quinnipiack Valley Health District residents (Bethany, Hamden, North Haven and Woodbridge) can call 203 248-4528. A future column will discuss insect repellents.