Iowa Specialty Hospital

Prevention is Key - Teaming Up to Educate About Zika Risks

July 18, 2016

Did you know that female mosquitoes can lay several hundred eggs on the sides of containers with standing water?  They stay attached until they are scrubbed off or until they hatch in only a weeks time.

Keeping any and all containers empty from standing water is one of the biggest mosquito preventions encouraged by Sandy McGrath of the Wright County Health Department/Environmental Health Division and Jeannine McWhorter of Iowa Specialty Hospital Infection Control.  That means bird baths, back yard swimming pools, rain barrels, even plastic bags that might float into your yard that captures even the tiniest amount of water from rainfall or watering flowers or grass.  They all attract mosquitoes, which can lead to a number of illnesses such as West Nile disease, or of latest concern, Zika.

While the Zika virus doesn’t pose an immediate threat to Iowa, it is still at the forefront of precautionary measures.

“I think the Center for Disease Control is very concerned because now days people travel all over the world,” said McWhorter.  And that includes regions with the infested mosquitoes.

If an individual is bitten while traveling and contracts Zika, they can very easily bring it back home and transmit it to a woman of child-bearing age, which is the most at-risk population.  For everyone else, if they are bitten by a Zika infected mosquito, they will have temporary flu-like symptoms including fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis.  But if a pregnant woman (usually in the first or second trimester) is bitten, it’s a real possibility that her unborn baby will be born with birth defects because the brain is still developing at those stages).  In fact, the possibility is so real, and there is no known way to tell if you have been bitten by a Zika mosquito, that if a man or child-bearing age woman travels to a Zika known region, they not have intimate relations (or use protection).  Initially, according to McGrath, it was advised that you not get pregnant for four years.

As of June 2016, 19 states have reported 750 confirmed cases of Zika.  Seven of those came from Iowa, but they were confirmed travel-related.  Three of those were infants born with defects.  Three more were miscarried.

“My biggest concern is that we have a lot of population that travels back and forth to southern states (where the confirmed Zika cases are higher),” said McGrath.  

The CDC is estimating that by the end of 2016, there will be four million cases of Zika world-wide.   This makes it one of the most detrimental outbreaks since HIV and AIDS in the 1990s.  The estimated cost of treatment, prevention, research, etc. could run into the billions of dollars.

The goal of Wright County Health Department/Environmental Health Division and Infectious Disease Control is to educate the people.  Providers are talking to pregnant women or those thinking of becoming pregnant.

“Knowledge is power,” said McWhorter.

The best protection is prevention.  Vinnie Frank of Iowa Specialty Hospital said that many expectant mothers know they need protection from mosquitoes, but are equally concerned about using products with DEET in them.  She encourages all expectant women to consider all their options before making a choice on mosquito control.  Proven non-DEET options include Avon Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus and Oil of lemon eucalyptus.  Products like Off, Cutter, Sawyer, and Ultrathon are also an option, but they do contain DEET.

Things that have been proven as non-effective include wrist bands, garlic, Vitamin B, and even back yard bug zappers - they actually attract mosquitoes to your yard.

With Zika being of such concern, that has been an initiative from the CDC to study Zika and a vaccine.  There is no approved medicine yet, but they are working on it.

As for Wright County cities, they are spraying for flies and mosquitoes, but McGrath reminds everyone that most of the sprays  are contact killers.  That means it only kills the flies and mosquitoes it touches.  To use one that would sit on the ground could be harmful to other creatures like birds, dogs, and cats if they eat it, etc.

Wright County residents should be relieved to know that there is a constant network between the health department, hospitals, and clinics to share prevention tactics, promote public awareness, and address and possible health concerns or outbreaks

Remember, knowledge is power and know that the CDC is keeping a close eye on Zika.

*This article was written and contributed by Kim Demory, Eagle Grove Eagle Editor, and originally appeared in the Eagle Grove Eagle and the Wright County Monitor.  

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