Arizona and the Zika Virus

It’s in the headlines almost every day. Though the Zika virus threat in the U.S. is nothing like the epidemic that is exploding in many other parts of the world, some people here are still concerned about it. Zika is believed to cause severe birth defects in children born to women infected by the virus.

The mosquito that carries the disease (the Aedes aegypti mosquito) does live in Arizona, but that doesn’t mean we are ripe for thousands of Zika cases. In a story this week in the Daily Wildcat, University of Arizona epidemiologist Heidi Brown spoke about the Zika threat in our state:

“Here in Arizona, we have established populations of the mosquito that transmits the disease. However, it is important to remember that this is the same mosquito that transmits dengue and chikungunya and we haven’t seen outbreaks of either of these diseases.”

A Tucson.com report added, “If and when Zika makes its way to Arizona, it will do so in summer, probably late summer after the monsoon rains create conditions for increases in the population of Aedes aegypti. Even then, past experience with dengue and Chikungunya suggest that the disease will not get established here — though health officials say there is no certainty that we are somehow immune from outbreaks.”

Dr. Qiang Chen, a professor at the Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology at Arizona State University told the Phoenix New Times, the best way to contain the virus is to control mosquitos:

“We are better protected than less-developed countries like Brazil,” he said. “We have windows and doors with screens. We spray insecticide. We don’t have a lot of stagnant water.”

The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) provides a page on its website with updated information about the Zika virus. The Maricopa County Department of Public Health also has a Zika page with information and resources.

While new reports of possible Zika transmissions through sex may add fuel to the already growing concern over the disease – the best thing we can do, according to public health officials, is to protect ourselves from mosquito bites. That includes:

  • avoiding travel to any of the infected regions;
  • wearing long pants and long sleeve shirts;
  • using an effective insect repellant; and
  • making sure there is no standing water to serve as a breeding ground.

Let us know whether you think the attention being paid to the Zika virus in Arizona is appropriate, or if you believe more needs to be done.  These types of conversations are important if we hope to one day reach our goal of making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!

 

 

 

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