It’s here and there and everywhereIt’s here and there and everywhere
Once upon a time, there was a very bad virus called Zika that was transmitted by mosquitos. That’s a headline we’d all like to read. Judging from news on the Zika front, it could almost be written.
Zika is here
Although the CDC has lifted its Zika-based travel warning for South Florida and there are no longer recommendations for pregnant women to avoid the region, there is still a very real sense among experts that the mosquito-borne virus is lurking just beneath the surface.
While the recent outbreak caused the public and the heath professionals to stand up and take note, there are a few facts that must keep Zika in the forefront of peoples’ minds:
- 80% of infected people do not have symptoms. In other words, since they do not know they have the virus, it could only be a matter of time before female mosquitoes feed on their blood and then pass the virus onto others – including those at greatest risk for serious complications.
- A warm, humid climate and pools of standing water will always make South Florida a hotspot for elevated mosquito populations.
- The public responded impressively to calls to eliminate standing water, wear long-sleeved clothing, and take other preventative measures. With Zika out of the headlines, though, people can easily – and quickly – become complacent. If not, another outbreak could be just around the corner.
Zika is there
Around the world, Zika headlines are mixed. Close to home, Caribbean nations report that outbreaks have subsided. Similarly, Brazil claims cases are down 95% from last year.
In some countries, particularly those in Southeast Asia and Africa, it’s difficult to get accurate readings. India, for example, recorded its first official case in May 2017, although the virus has likely been a presence there for decades.
To help travelers, the CDC has created an interactive Zika map. This is especially helpful for pregnant women or couples trying to become pregnant.
Zika is everywhere
If there is any truly good news about Zika, it comes from medical researchers in the United States studying the virus as a treatment for brain cancer in adults. When injected into the aggressive brain tumors in adult mice, Zika appeared to selectively infect and kill cancerous cells while leaving other brain cells intact.
It’s believed that Zika targets stem cells. Because fetuses and infants have an abundance of healthy stem cells, they are at greatest risk for brain damage from Zika. Adults, though, have much fewer stem cells. Although it will be some time before human trials, researchers are hopeful that brain cancer cells resistant to most conventional treatments can either be eradicated completely or tumors reduced for easier removal with Zika treatment.
Where we are today
The worry, though, is for today and tomorrow. While travel bans have been lifted and outbreaks are diminishing, we cannot afford to return to a pre-Zika mindset. The CDC, while it lifted many of its Zika warnings, still has several recommendations:
- Pregnant women should not travel to areas where Zika is present.
- Condom use for vaginal, oral, and anal sex is a must. The Zika virus is present in the semen of an infected man for up to six months.
- For conception, couples should wait at least six months after a man returns from a country where Zika is present; at least 8 weeks after a woman returns.
It’s also imperative to continue to practice good prevention skills – from wearing long-sleeved clothing to emptying standing water and eliminating objects that gather water. Platinum Mosquito Protection also provides an automatic misting system to keep mosquitos at bay on your property.
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