25 cases of Zika in Virginia

As of June 9, the Virginia Department of Health has 25 confirmed and probable cases of Zika virus infection in the state.

Charles Devine, health director for the Lord Fairfax Health District, said of the 25 cases, three have been in the northwest region, which includes the Lord Fairfax Health District.

The cases in Virginia are as follows: three in the northwest region, 14 in the northern region, one in the eastern region, five in the central region and two in the southwest region.

“The Virginia Department of Health does not share pregnancy status and does not release location information more localized than the region,” he said. “We do this to protect the privacy of those involved.”

He added that no transmissions of Zika have occurred in Virginia or in the continental U.S. Cases in the states have all been imported by returning travelers, but there has been transmission of the virus by mosquito in certain U.S. territories, which include Puerto Rico.

The Zika virus infection is a viral disease spread to people primarily through the bites of infected mosquitoes, but sexual transmission has also been documented, he said. Mosquitoes become infected by feeding on people infected with the virus.

He added that the virus is spread primarily by the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti. The Asian Tiger mosquito, aedes albopictus, can also spread the virus.

“These two mosquito species are different from most other mosquito species in Virginia because they fly and bite during daylight hours and will enter homes through any open door or window and bite indoors,” he said. “These two species are also different from other species because they lay their eggs exclusively in containers of water, such as containers made of plastic, ceramic, glass, metal, concrete, wood or stone, and they do not lay their eggs in ground bodies of water, such as puddles, flooded ditches, ponds or streams.”

To control and prevent these two species require different tactics, he said. Treating neighborhoods with truck-mounted foggers and larviciding puddles and stagnant water will not control these species. Control requires thorough residential and commercial property inspections to find and eliminate containers of water where eggs are laid.

“As these mosquitoes don’t travel far, thoroughly inspecting your property and removing potential breeding sites will significantly reduce the numbers of these mosquitoes present,” he said.

About 80 percent of people infected with the virus do not become sick, he said. The other 20 percent who do become sick show symptoms that include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis.

“The illness is usually mild and the symptoms typically last several days to a week,” he said. “The incubation period for Zika virus is likely three to 14 days. Symptoms, if they occur, are likely to occur three to 14 days after exposure to Zika virus.”

He added that people usually don’t get sick enough to require a hospital visit, and they rarely die of Zika.

“For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected,” he said.

If you believe you have been infected and have traveled to an area with Zika virus transmission, he said a medical provider should be contacted. The health care provider will contact the local health department to determine if testing is required. A doctor may order blood tests to look for Zika or similar mosquito-borne viruses, such as dengue or chikungunya.

He added that while there is no specific treatment for the Zika virus, health care providers primarily provide supportive care to relieve symptoms, which may include rest, fluids and over-the-counter medicine.

He said that a person infected by the mosquito will have Zika virus in their blood, especially in the first week of illness.

“Based on the available evidence, we think that Zika virus infection in a woman who is not pregnant would not pose a risk for birth defects in future pregnancies after the virus has cleared from her blood,” he said. “From what we know about similar infections, once a person has been infected with Zika virus, he or she is likely to be protected from a future Zika infection.”

Infected people should stay indoors or wear protective clothing and mosquito repellant for the first week after beginning to feel sick, he said.

“This will help prevent mosquitoes from biting them and potentially spreading the virus to others in the community,” he said.

He added that travel notices are in effect for areas including Cape Verde, Mexico, locations in the Caribbean region, Central America, certain Pacific islands and certain countries in South America.

ON THE NET

For a complete list of travel alerts, visit the Center for Disease Control website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices.

For a map with all countries and territories with active Zika virus transmission, visit, http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/active-countries.html.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com

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