Only one out of the more than 30 confirmed cases of Zika in the
country appears to have been transmitted locally, in Dallas, Texas.
Public health officials are bracing for the time when warmer weather
increases the number of mosquitoes that can transmit the virus by
biting an infected person and spreading it to others.
The types of mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus, Aedes aegypti and
Aedes albopictus, are common in Florida, where mosquito season is
year-round, and along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, including
Florida seems to be leading so far in intensifying efforts.
Hillsborough County, located on Tampa Bay on Florida's west coast,
is paying workers overtime as it steps up spraying, mosquito
monitoring, and misting in the area of the home of someone who had
Zika, said Carlos Fernandes, director of county mosquito control.
In west-central Florida, in Pinellas County, officials plan to
educate people about removing standing water where mosquitoes breed,
and are looking into expanding spraying to specifically target
mosquitoes that transmit Zika. Pest control efforts are focused
around people's homes.
"She doesn't fly very far at all. She's a real homebody," said Dr.
Mark Whiteside, medical director for the Florida Department of
Health in Monroe County.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said it is
working on a specific U.S. program for Zika. Until then, the CDC is
circulating guidelines developed for combating chikungunya, a close
cousin to Zika that is carried by the same types of mosquitoes.
Texas, which has had eight cases of Zika, has not changed mosquito
control efforts at this point but is asking healthcare providers to
monitor cases. Dallas County already has robust anti-mosquito
programs in place and Houston is stepping up mosquito control
But elsewhere in the United States, such as in Illinois, New York
and Los Angeles County, officials are maintaining normal mosquito
abatement programs. Travelers have returned to Minnesota, New York
and Illinois with the virus, but health officials say it is unlikely
mosquitoes will spread the virus in the winter in those areas.
Since the 1960s, the increase in international travel and decline in
the use of pesticides such as DDT, has spread the outbreaks of
mosquito-borne illnesses such as West Nile, dengue, malaria and
chikungunya to countries such as the United States, where the
diseases are not endemic.
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The CDC recommendations for fighting mosquitoes carrying all those
viruses are the same - cover skin with clothing and insect
repellant, cover windows with screens and stay in air conditioning.
"No mosquito is a good mosquito," Dr. Laurene Mascola, chief of the
Los Angeles County public health department's acute communicable
disease control program. "It's true. Sorry, mosquitoes."
The insecticides for Zika-carrying mosquitoes are the same as those
for other mosquitoes, officials said.
But for Zika, local officials have received an additional CDC
recommendation, that women who are pregnant or considering becoming
pregnant defer travel to Zika-outbreak countries because the risks
are unknown. Zika is suspected to have a causal relation with
clusters of microcephaly, a birth defect, in Brazil, according to
the World Health Organization.
In Houston, officials are upping efforts to inform residents about
prevention and notify doctors about the possibility of Zika, to take
down patients' travel histories and talk to pregnant patients,
Houston Health Department spokesman Porfirio Villarreal said.
Available insecticides had a limited impact during a major dengue
outbreak in Key West, Florida, in 2009 and 2010, state health
official Whiteside said. So the health department mobilized a
door-to-door education campaign, leaving door hangers and
refrigerator magnets reminding residents to check their yards
regularly for containers with standing water.
(Additional reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit and Letitia Stein in
Tampa, Florida; Writing by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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