JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
As if mosquitos were not already a big enough nuisance normally, they have made headlines in the last few years by carrying the Zika virus in places around the world. ZikaV is not a new disease, but one that has had a rapid surge in the number of cases since May 2015.
ZikaV is spread primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, but it can also be transmitted through sexual intercourse, blood transfusion, or from a mother to her fetus during pregnancy. The symptoms resemble those of a cold or mild flu: fever, rash, joint/muscle pain, headache, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Symptoms appear 2-7 days after infection and last 12-14 days. It is very common for an individual to have the virus and not show symptoms at all. Roughly 80% of individuals who contract the virus do not show symptoms or they have such mild symptoms, they are brushed off as mild allergies or a cold. ZikaV usually remains in the blood for about 1-2 weeks but has been found in semen for months.
Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent or treat for ZikaV. According to the CDC, the best way to prevent infection is to avoid mosquito bites. Examples of precautions are as follows:
· Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants.
· Stay in places with air-conditioning or use window and door screens
· Sleep under mosquito bed nets when outside
· Use Environmental Protection Agency registered bug spray and treat clothes with Permethrin and skin with DEET (available in most retailers/drugstores).
Additionally, do not receive blood transfusions from individuals who have traveled to ZikaV infected areas, and abstain from sex with partners returning from ZikaV infected countries or use condoms for at least 6 months after their return. If symptoms arise after traveling to a country affected with ZikaV, the best thing to do is to consult your primary care manager who will treat the symptoms. If symptoms appear in a pregnant female who has traveled to a high-risk ZikaV country, seek medical attention immediately to reduce the risk of infection to the baby.
Joint Base Charleston has an active mosquito surveillance program on both the Air Base and Naval Weapons Station. Mosquito traps are set out weekly to capture and identify the types of mosquitoes prevalent to the local area during May to October. The mosquitoes are sent to an Air Force lab which tests for ZikaV and several other vector-borne diseases. While South Carolina has had a few cases of ZikaV, it was only found in individuals who had traveled to an area where the disease is prevalent. These cases were not acquired locally.
Taking precautionary steps will help you from contracting ZikaV. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any symptoms of ZikaV. If you are planning to travel to an area where ZikaV is a concern, or if you have any questions, contact the Public Health Office at (843) 963-6958 or (843) 963-6962 on the Air Base, or the Preventive Medicine Department on the Naval Weapons Station at (843) 794-6571.
Information obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)