Health officials express concern of the spread of Zika virus

Published 7:00 am Saturday, April 9, 2016

Even though there have been only three cases of Zika in the state of Mississippi reported, the mosquito borne illness is still a cause for concern for local health officials.
Dr. Jim Aiken, Chief of Medical Operations at Pearl River County Hospital in Poplarville, said the state so far has not seen any reports of babies being born with microcephaly, one of the most severe results of the virus going on in countries where the virus is prevalent. He added that there have been no reports of the disease being transmitted locally. So far, all cases in Mississippi were brought in by travelers to other countries.
Aiken advises anyone who has traveled to a country where the virus is prevalent to get tested, sooner rather than later, especially if they have traveled to a country with significant incidents of Zika related incidents, or if they need to know for the sake of preventing birth defects or other complications associated with Zika. Aiken said there is a narrow window of about a week when the virus can be detected.
He suggests anyone who has traveled to one of those countries to try to avoid being bitten by a mosquito here in Mississippi, which theoretically could transmit the disease to another person here in Mississippi. It is known that the Aedes mosquito carries the virus, a species that is in Mississippi, Aiken said.
By removing standing water, and protecting the skin from bites, people can protect themselves from being bitten.
While it has not been documented yet, Aiken said it is possible for person infected with the virus to transmit it to another through a mosquito bite after they have arrived back home in Mississippi, but only for a short time. However, after about a week when the immune system has taken care of the virus, that would not be the case.
Men who think they may have been infected should avoid unprotected sex, Aiken said.
He also suggests women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant avoid travel to countries where the virus is prevalent.
If a person who traveled to these areas is suffering from the symptoms of the virus has been vaccinated for the flu, it might be a warning sign that they should get tested for Zika, Aiken said.
Zika is not a new virus. Aiken said the medical community has known about it since the late 1940s, but just recently it mutated, leading to the cases seen recently.
According to a press release from the Mississippi State Department of Health, the third case of the virus was confirmed in an Okibbeha County resident who returned from a trip to Haiti. Two other cases were confirmed in Madison and Noxubee counties earlier this month, the release states.
Symptoms of the virus typically include fever, joint pain, conjunctivitis or a rash, but death is very rare. The release states that 80 percent of people have mild symptoms.

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