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Zika lands in the United States

The United States has reported 2,686 confirmed travel-associated cases of Zika as of Aug. 31. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 35 cases of locally acquired mosquito-borne cases, all within Florida. Twenty travel-related cases have been confirmed by the Oklahoma State Department of Health. There is currently no vaccine or medicine for Zika.

“No matter whether you have a high risk or a low risk, there are a couple of things you can really do to be not a victim to that disease, ” Biology and Chemistry Department Chair Joel Gaikwad said. “But, mosquitoes are mosquitoes. They travel on a plane, they can get on a plane and be easily transmitted from location to location, so we can’t control that. The bottom line is that college students have to be careful in the outside area. It’s better to be safe than to be sorry.”

According to the CDC, Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that can be transmitted in a number of ways. If a pregnant mother contracts Zika, dangerous birth defects can occur. Transmission can occur sexually, through the bite of a Zika-carrying mosquito, and pregnant mothers can pass the virus to the unborn child. The CDC says transmission is very likely to be possible through blood transfusions.

Zika’s symptoms in adults usually last several days up to a week and include conjunctivitis, fever, rash, headaches and joint and muscle pain. In many cases, however, Zika does not show symptoms.

The Associated Press reported that three Miami Beach mosquitoes tested positive as carriers of the virus, the first in mainland U.S. on Sept. 1.  According to the CDC, more than 10 babies have been born with defects linked to Zika.

Mosquitoes tend to breed in and near standing water. The CDC cautions the public to be aware of conditions favorable for breeding mosquitoes.

“Transmission is there, the disease is dangerous, but the number of people getting that infection is very, very small; that is a bright side. That doesn’t mean that we have to be really not responsible.” Gaikwad said. “We need to avoid panic. I think that is the most important thing. Avoid panic, but use common sense.”

Active Zika transmission is occurring in nations across North America, South America and the Pacific Islands. Transmission is also active in Singapore and Cape Verde. The U.S. has had 2,722 total cases since Jan. 1, 2015.

Gaikwad said mosquitoes tend to be nocturnal creatures, and staying indoors after the sun goes down can prevent insect bites.

“We have a body of water [on campus] called Lake Evelyn that isgoing to be a breeding ground for mosquitoes. So, if you’re going to be in that area after the sun goes down, you have to be careful.” Gaikwad said.

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