The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

County health experts discuss Zika’s effects

By Andela Brown/ reporter

Although not widespread, the Zika virus has found its way to the Metroplex, Tarrant County Health Department representatives told South students April 6.

Epidemiologist Russell Jones and vector control supervisor Nina Dacko presented a history and prevention strategy for the Zika and West Nile viruses in this area.

“Three people have been affected in Tarrant County this year and eight in the past two years,” Jones said.

Zika, which got its name from the Zika Forest in Uganda, was discovered in 1947 in rhesus monkeys. It was then found in people living in Nigeria. In 2007, a large outbreak was discovered on Yap Island in the Pacific.

At first, the Zika virus was a mild disease that was taken lightly, but that has since changed.

Zika was introduced to this area by a traveler during the Brazil World Cup in 2014 or possibly during canoe races. In 2015, doctors reported that unborn infants carried the infection, which caused an abnormal growth in the heads of these children.

West Nile was first introduced in New York and came to the DFW area between 2002 and 2005. Its lineage is from West Israel and spread throughout the U.S. through various clusters of birds. Since 2012, one in five people reported being infected, which was a total of 280 known cases. In 2013, there were 55 cases of the infection. A total of 47 countries have now been affected by West Nile.

Zika is commonly spread through humans while West Nile is a vector-born infection from different species of birds that come in contact with mosquitoes, which are then passed on to humans and sometimes pets. West Nile peaks during the summer.

Twenty percent of people infected with West Nile will contract the disease. The symptoms will begin as a fever and possibly a rash along with fatigue. This illness will usually last about three weeks.

“The older you are, the higher you are at risk,” Jones said. “At least 20 to 25 percent of the people infected with the Zika virus get sick. Those that do not could transmit the infection to another person, causing them to become ill.”

No vaccines exist for Zika at this time. Vaccines for West Nile are used only for horses that could die from the infection.

If a person in the home is infected with the Zika virus, those that live there are at a higher risk of infection, which soon travels to neighbors.

Response activities conducted for these viruses begin with an investigation of the travel history for the person infected. If the person has not traveled outside the area, it is then concluded that the case is local.

The history and the onset of symptoms are questioned. A person is then counseled on mosquito avoidance and sexual transmission prevention. The home is then inspected for mosquito breeding sources and is usually treated.

Insecticide is used if needed along with barriers and fogging. Traps are set in the area to control the outbreak so that the mosquitoes can be studied. The person is then left with a Zika care package. The local blood bank is notified not to accept any blood from the reported area where the virus was found.

Some mosquitoes will seek out a place during the winter months in storm drains or in the house and will spend the winter hibernating as eggs, producing an antifreeze to last during the cold.

“Cold weather will not kill off mosquitoes,” Dacko said, referring to the common myth.

A risk assessment plan is taking place by the health department to study the various types of mosquitoes in the area to find where the West Nile and Zika viruses are located.

“The goal of this assessment is to kill the adult mosquitoes carrying the virus,” Dacko said.

Contracts are in place for area treatments in Tarrant County if multiple cases are reported.

People are advised of the mosquito season, which begins in April. The health department began its study on local mosquitoes and will continue through November.

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