Arizona 'at risk' for Zika outbreak

Public health leaders suspect that thousands in the US are infected with the Zika virus, but may not know it.

PHOENIX – The Arizona Department of Health Services hosted a summit to address concerns over the Zika virus Tuesday, because we are an "at-risk" state.

Aedes aegypti is the type of mosquito that carries the Zika virus, and it’s in Arizona, as well as a number of other southern states in the U.S.

So far, we've only seen three travel-associated Zika infections in Arizona, but the potential for an outbreak is there.

It only takes one person to came back from an affected area to allow the potentially Zika-carrying mosquito to pick up the disease and spread it.

"We are considered one of the at-risk states,” Director of the Arizona State Health Department Cara Christ, MD, said while talking about how to prevent the disease, what to do if you get it and how the CDC and other agencies in Arizona plan to respond.

"[This type of mosquito doesn’t] fly very far,” Christ said. “They basically live where they are born. So it's going to be a more targeted approach.

That’s compared to fogging, which was the tactic used to kill infected mosquitos when the fear over West Nile was high. Another factor distinguishing the two types of mosquitoes, is that the West Nile carrier is attracted to other animals, but the Zika mosquito goes straight for human blood. 

"It primarily likes people. It lives around people,” said Christ, “and it bites all day long."

So you're encouraged to wear repellent all day long if you are outside, not just from dusk until dawn.

The average person might not even know if they get Zika because only 20 percent will get mild symptoms, such as a fever, a rash or red eyes.

The main concern is still the safety of pregnant women and their unborn babies. Another concern is what we still don't know. 

The Zika-caryying mosquitoes are prolific and only require the amount of water that would fill a bottle cap to breed and lay eggs.

Anything that could harbor small puddles of water require your attention. So, think outside of the box: food bowls for animals, children's toys left outside could carry the right amount, not to mention stagnant swimming pools, faulty gutters or buckets.

If you have to travel to an area in the Caribbean or Central or South America, health experts say do not donate blood for 28 days after you return.

Copyright 2016 KPNX


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