By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
If you have plans to travel to the Caribbean to soak up some rays or hit the links in Puerto Rico, the EBCI Public Health and Human Services division is warning EBCI tribal members to be aware of the Zika Virus.
“It’s a virus being spread by a mosquito,” said Abigail Smith, MPH, PHHS public health preparedness coordinator. “It’s spread by a mosquito biting a human. It has also been found to be spread by sexual transmission from male to female. Currently, there is active transmission of Zika in Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Pacific Islands.”
The Zika Virus is nothing new. Spread by the Aedes species mosquito, the virus was first discovered in 1947 in Uganda according to the CDC. It is named after Uganda’s Zika Forest, and the first human case was discovered in 1957.
In February 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).
“There are no local acquired cases in the United States,” said Smith, “but, there are 312 cases reported in the United States that were acquired while traveling or through sexual transmission with someone who had traveled.”
The CDC states that transmission has been reported in several U.S. territories including Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa.
Smith related there is a Level 2 travel advisory to the areas affected. “That basically means that if you’re going to travel to these areas, use extra precaution to protect yourselves from mosquitoes. They’re advising pregnant women not to travel at all to those areas because Zika has been linked to birth defects.”
The CDC reports that Zika has been linked to increased numbers of babies born with microephaly, eye defects, hearing problems, impaired growth and brain structure development issues.
“Basic mosquito protection is wearing EPA-registered bug spray, wearing long shirts and long parts and using screens on your windows or doors.” said Smith who related that this species of mosquito is often found in sitting water in temporary containers such as old flower pots, tires, etc.
“The Aedes mosquito is a daytime and a nighttime biter so you’ll want to be careful all day and night.”
While it can be dangerous to a pregnant woman, the basic symptoms of Zika are mild and are not fatal said Smith. “You’re going to have a rash and fever, red eyes, and sometimes you’ll have Zika and not even know that you have it because you’re not always going to be presenting symptoms. But, if you are, it’s generally going to last five days and then go away. It’s not deadly at all. The worst thing is that it can cause birth defects in pregnant women.”
Smith added, “We don’t want to instill fear with people here in Cherokee that Zika is a concern here because it’s not. We just want to promote mosquito prevention.”