Editorial: Zika is now here
Mosquitoes aren’t the first thing you think about when you hear “Arizona” but they do live here.
This week, Florida announced that the mosquito-borne virus Zika has officially taken up residence in the U.S.
“Zika is now here,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, officials do not expect the nation will be hit with as hard as other countries, due to the better sanitation and education.
Arizona reported its first case in March involving a woman who contracted the virus while traveling, then returned home with it to Maricopa County.
A link has been identified between the virus and birth defects among infants of infected mothers.
“As soon as public health became aware of the suspect case, the individual was contacted to ensure she stayed indoors and avoided being bitten by mosquitoes to prevent further spread of the virus,” said Bob England, MD, MPH, director of Maricopa County Department of Public Health.
Most people infected with the Zika virus do not become ill, and those who do become ill have symptoms that may include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis. Severe illness and hospitalization due to Zika virus is rare.
According to the Associated Press report on the virus, “Zika-fighting efforts include pesticide spraying, setting of traps and eliminating standing water around homes. Florida’s governor has allocated over $25 million for dealing with Zika, and the White House and the CDC have provided over $10 million. However, Congress left on a seven-week vacation without giving the Obama administration any of the $1.9 billion it sought to battle the virus.”
Although the risk in this country isn’t as great as say Brazil, there is still a risk and it’s a shame that Congress decided to wait until after vacation to deal with it.
The Arizona Department of Health Services suggests some things residents can do to prevent rapid spreading of the virus here:
Tips for avoiding mosquito bites:
Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants.
Use insect repellants and always follow the product instructions. Reapply insect repellant as directed. Do not spray insect repellant on skin covered by clothing. Be sure to apply sunscreen before applying insect repellant.
If you have a baby or young child:
Do not use insect repellant on babies younger than two months old. Dress your children in clothing that covers their arms and legs. Cover cribs, strollers, and baby carriers with mosquito netting. Do not put insect repellant on children’s hands, eyes, mouths, cuts or irritated skin.
Adults: Spray repellant onto your hands and then apply to children’s faces.
Outside the home:
Install or repair and use window and door screens. Do not leave doors propped open.
Once a week, empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out any items that hold water like tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flowerpot saucers, or trash containers. Mosquitoes lay eggs near water. Tightly cover water storage containers (buckets, cisterns, rain barrels) so that mosquitoes cannot get inside to lay eggs. For containers without lids, use wire mesh with holes smaller than an adult mosquito. Use an outdoor flying insect spray where mosquitoes rest. Mosquitoes rest in dark, humid areas like under patio furniture, or under the carport or garage. When using insecticides, always follow label instructions. If you have a septic tank, repair cracks or gaps. Cover open vent or plumbing pipes. Use wire mesh with holes smaller than an adult mosquito.
Inside the home:
Use air conditioning when possible.
Keep mosquitoes from laying eggs inside your home. Once a week, empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out any items that hold water like vases and flowerpot saucers. Kill mosquitoes inside your home. Use an indoor flying insect fogger or indoor insect spray to kill mosquitoes and treat areas where they rest. Mosquitoes rest in dark, humid places like under the sink, in closets, under furniture, or in the laundry room. Use an indoor fogger or indoor insect spray to reach and treat areas were mosquitoes rest inside the home.
According to the AP, “Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, whose jurisdiction includes Walt Disney World and other Orlando-area theme parks, said tourists shouldn’t think twice about coming to the Sunshine State. Florida had more than 106 million visitors last year, and tourism is the state’s biggest industry.”
If you do travel outside of Arizona, keep the above precautions in mind so you don’t bring Zika home as a souvenir.