Zika Virus Accompanies Travellers Returning to USA

By Allyana Belen
Domestic News Writer

The most recent Zika virus case in North Carolina draws attention to travelers who have visited countries in Central America and are now returning to the United States. Thus, the primary focus of intervention within the United States is leaning towards encouraging less travel to that region and warning travelers, who are in those countries or who will be going to those countries, to take every measure to prevent exposure to mosquitoes.  Related precautions include staying within places that have air conditioning and screened windows, purchasing and applying mosquito-repellent bug spray, and sleeping under mosquito nets.

Due to patient confidentiality, members of the North Carolina Health Department have only released a very basic outline of the most recent case. This case involves an adult who recently traveled to a country where there continues to be a Zika virus outbreak. As of now, the patient’s symptoms of disease have been cured.

North Carolina’s state health director, Randall Williams, cited travels to Central America as the primary cause for Zika virus cases in the United State, also stating, as quoted by WNCN, “While travel-related cases don’t present a public health threat to North Carolina, we always actively monitor emerging global situations and adjust resources to meet needs.”

North Carolina physicians are now required to report all suspected cases involving the Zika virus to the Department of Health and Human Services within their state. Symptoms of being affected by the Zika virus include the following: rash, red eyes, fever, joint pain, and muscle aches. It can be transmitted through any exchange of bodily fluids, such as via blood transfusion and sexual encounters. Most commonly however, it is transmitted via mosquitoes.

During the initial presence of the Zika virus within the United States, the CDC was the only site at which testing for the Zika virus could be done, but as the new cases of this virus continue to be spread throughout the United States, North Carolina has garnered approval to perform this test within their state. Soon, other states will be requesting the same privilege.

The only documented cases of Zika virus infection within the United States involve travel to specific regions in Central and South America with the singular exception being a sexually transmitted case in Texas. These Zika virus travel-related cases were found in a total of 21 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.

At the heart of the Zika virus storm is a single creature, the mosquito, specifically, the Aedes aegypti mosquito, transmitter of microorganisms and pathogens directly into the human blood stream. As medical professionals and scientists try to help the general population understand this recent outbreak of a previously unknown pathogen, several popular theories have been promulgated. The latest theory relates to global climate change and appears to be supported by the timeline of the Zika virus outbreak. The year of 2015 brought with it the highest recorded temperatures for Brazil, and it was within that year that the Zika virus spread.

As documented by Business Insider, Andrew Monaghan of the National Center for Atmospheric Research related the Zika virus outbreak to global climate change when he said, :  “As we get continued warming, it’s going to become more difficult to control mosquitoes. The warmer it is, the faster they can develop from egg to adult, and the faster they can incubate viruses.” One of the major assets of the United States, which prevents the Zika virus from transferring on a local level, is the colder climate and the availability of air conditioning in warmer regions of the country.

Therefore, it is up to those who are traveling outside of the country to places where the Zika virus is present to take initiative and to ensure the maintenance of their health and of those whom they return home to by taking every precautionary measure against mosquito bites.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, February 23rd print edition.

Contact Allyana at
mariaallyana.belen@student.shu.edu

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