This information about Zika virus and its associated vector, the Aedes mosquito, is not intended to cause panic or to instill fear in Northampton County. It is an attempt to demonstrate the need to act NOW, in a preemptive move, to eradicate as much potential breeding habitat, as possible, to stem the spread of Zika virus.
A climate warming trend, over the last few decades, has seen the development of a public health danger that some of us have been worrying and warning about. For some time now, public health practitioners have monitored the spread of tropical and subtropical mosquito borne diseases into North America. There are many historical accounts of yellow fever and malaria( both mosquito borne) outbreaks in the U.S., that are worthy of an internet search and read. As recently as the 1930s malaria was endemic in S.E. North Carolina; my maternal grandmother was a malaria survivor. Even today, there are an estimated 500,000 deaths per year attributed to Malaria, most occurring in Sub Saharan Africa. Warming trends have seen an increase in range, case numbers, and concerns for dengue ( break bone fever), West Nile, and Chikungunya. Cases of these diseases are being reported in the US.. It is interesting to note that mosquito borne diseases had been considered at one time, suitable agents for weaponization.
Enter, Zika virus. First isolated from humans in 1954 in Nigeria, cases were rare and sporadic, confined to Africa and East Asia, until 2007, when there was a major outbreak on Yap, Micronesia. From there outbreaks spread east through the Pacific Islands, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.
There have been seven documented cases of Zika virus, in Virginia. These are believed to be directly associated with travel abroad, some apparently acquired through sexual activity.Northampton County has a large seasonal influx of individuals from areas where Zika Virus has seen a well documented recent increase in occurrence.
The mosquito that carries Zika, Aedes aegypti, is not a salt marsh type mosquito, rather it breeds in pools of water, discarded tires, gutters, water trapped in tarps, etc. Once considered somewhat tropical and subtropical in distribution, increasingly warm weather patterns have extended its range. This species is now routinely found as far North as New York. There are breeding overwintering populations documented D.C.
We, in North America, have not had time as a general population, to develop any immunity to Zika Virus.
Our tourist, seasonal laborer, and full time resident lifestyles involve much out door activity, so recommending staying indoors, as in other areas, will simply not work here without seriously impacting our economy. The 2016 Summer Olympics will be held in Brazil, currently ground zero for our current outbreak.
I am certain the Health Department, Riverside and Rural Health are on high alert and are coordinating efforts, implementing CDC recommendations regarding tracking cases, etc.
There is something very important that we can and must do, to assist our local health teams. We need to implement mosquito awareness and control programs in Northampton County and its Towns, ASAP.
Agricultural interests need to make sure there are no breeding ares near irrigation equipment etc, town residents should see that gutters, flower pot, tarps, etc are kept free of standing water, towns need to make sure storm drains stay flushed….you get the idea. Ditches right now are full, and we are on the cusp of the mosquito season. Those ponds draining parking lots, etc. are perfect mosquito breeding grounds. Northampton County and our Towns, have a lot of work to do , in eradicating possible Aedes breeding conditions. In Nassawadox, I recently spied a residence with at least two dozen derelict kitchen appliances in the yard. While attending an event in Cape Charles this weekend, I noticed water,standing between two buildings, that had been there long enough to grow algae.
Mosquito control involves a clear vector management strategy involving surveillance( trapping and identifying mosquito species capable of transmitting Zika and testing for presence of the virus ), removal of larval habitat,larval control( chemical, biological), adult mosquito control, monitoring for any pesticide resistance, and methods to prevent transmission( repellents, clothing etc).
I have some concern over potential dangers to fish, shellfish, birds, etc. presented by chemicals that could be used in mosquito control, adulticides and larvicides. Endocrine disruptor larvicides have been used in Brazil; there was some thought early on that this contributed to the Microcephaly spike, but I am not aware of evidence supporting that claim.
The Zika virus is also capable of being sexually transmitted, and is considered a risk to safe blood supplies. Research has found that the virus remains in semen, long after it is no longer detectable in blood. Someone can be infected with Zika, and not show symptoms.
Pope Frances has stated that contraception is the lesser of two evils, when choosing between using contraception to prevent a pregnancy at risk to birth defects due to Zika, and giving birth to a child affected with microcephaly, neurological or visual defects.
Most adults infected with Zika virus experience fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes( conjunctivitis). With some,there are more serious, longer effects including the auto-immune conditions Guillain-Barre syndrome and the multiple sclerosis- like ADEM. Deaths have also been reported.
This is a very fluid situation, as new information concerning Zika virus is constantly being made available. For more in depth information, I have included several useful links. The CDC is updating their sites regularly.