Get Healthy Carson City: Zika virus a concern, especially for travelers | NevadaAppeal.com

Get Healthy Carson City: Zika virus a concern, especially for travelers

Cortney Bloomer
Carson City Health and Human Services

This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.

If you’ve been following the news recently, you’ve probably heard reports of an outbreak of a virus called Zika that’s taking place in Central and South America. Should you be concerned?

While those who have traveled or plan to travel to areas where the outbreak is taking place — Mexico, Central America and South America, and a large swath of the Caribbean — have risk for exposure to the virus, those of us at home here in Northern Nevada are at low risk. Why? The two species of mosquito responsible for spreading the virus are not found in our region.

Zika virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected when they bite a person already infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bites. In the United States, the two types of mosquitoes that spread Zika are found mainly in the Southeast and in a few sporadic areas of the Southwest. The range of A. albopictus stretches farther up the eastern seaboard and into the Midwest. Neither are found in Nevada.

Dustin Boothe, an epidemiologist with Carson City Health and Human Services, had this to say about Zika:

“We are closely monitoring the Zika virus situation that is currently impacting several parts of the world. The type of mosquito that can spread this virus and others is not normally found in our area, however we do treat for mosquitos in know problems areas, such as wetlands, pastures and storm drains in Carson City.” Boothe also had a message for Carson City residents who may be traveling to Zika-infected areas. “If you are traveling to areas that have Zika, please protect yourself by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, use EPA-registered insect repellents, and stay in places with air conditioning or that have window and door screens.”

In addition to being spread through the bite of an infected mosquito, Zika virus can be spread by a man to his sex partners. Because Zika has been linked to birth defects, including microcephaly, it’s important to take steps to prevent Zika if you’re pregnant or trying to become pregnant. If you have a male partner who lives in or has traveled to an area with Zika, protect your unborn baby by abstaining from sex or, if you do have sex, use a condom the right way each and every time during your pregnancy. Condoms can also help prevent getting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

While most people infected with Zika experience only mild symptoms, the risk for unborn babies is much higher. If you’re concerned you may have become infected with Zika, contact your healthcare provider. To learn more about Zika virus, visit http://www.cdc.gov/zika. For more information about other Health Department services, check out our website at http://www.gethealthycarsoncity.org or “like” us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/CCHHS.