There are now 98 cases of people infected with the Zika virus in Florida, all acquired outside the state.
As the relatively mild spring weather will soon turn to a punishing heat and humidity in the coming months, Tampa Democratic Representative Kathy Castor convened a group of health care experts to talk about how the public can prevent exposure to the virus at a press conference held in the backyard of a residential home in West Tampa on Tuesday.
“It is likely that this mosquito born virus will begin to be transmitted here in our community, so we want to do everything that we can to prevent it,” said Castor.
The virus is primarily spread through the bites of infected mosquitoes. There is no vaccine to prevent Zika virus infection, and there is no specific treatment for people who become infected. That’s why experts say that the best way to prevent the spread of the virus is to control the mosquito. If it somehow infiltrate on U.S. soil as it has in Latin America, the effects could be devastating to pregnant woman, said Dr. Jose Prieto, MD, who works in maternal fetal medicine at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.
“It has gained international attention do to its affects on the development of the fetus, namely the condition of fetal microcephaly, which is defined as a small headsize or a fetal headsize that is smaller than expected for gestational age,” explained Prieto. He said that the Centers for Disease Control recommends that women of reproductive age or who already are pregnant should postpone or delay any upcoming scheduled trips to areas where there is active Zika virus transmission. “If a pregnant woman does travel to an area where there is active Zika virus transmission, than these patients should be evaluated, regardless of symptoms,” he said.
“We certainly are doing everything we can to advise people to get rid of standing water in their backyard,” said Dr. Jamie Morano with the USF Division of Infectious Disease. She advised people to take all preventive measures to block mosquito bites, including putting on bed spray and wearing long clothing.
And there’s also this.
“Seventy-five percent of people don’t remember that they’ve had symptoms,” she said, alluding to the obvious fact that those people could unknowingly transmit it to other people.
John Lyons is with the Mosquito Control division of Hillsborough County Public Works. He says that since the Zika virus emergency was declared the county has set out numerous traps to detect the presence of mosquitoes.
“This is a big county – over 1,000 square miles – obviously there’s a lot of water areas in the country,” he said, adding that this type of mosquito, called Aedes aegypti, is known to reside in more urbanized areas. Lyons also said that the county is doing some “strategic aerial treatment” but agreed with Castor that method of eradication is considered to be relatively ineffective, since these mosquitoes are known to thrive in homes and around human beings.
The CDC says that female mosquitoes — the only ones that bite — can also lay eggs in the “microbial stew” found in septic tanks, toilet tanks and shower stalls.