Dr. Manoj Jain: Travel advisory illustrates danger of Zika virus – Commercial Appeal

For this week’s column, I had been writing about the health care reform plans of the presidential nominees until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared a “travel advisory” to the Miami Beach area due to Zika virus. Unfortunately, this advisory may be only the beginning of many more to come (and the advisories probably have more substance to them than either party’s health care platform.)

The Zika virus advisory impacts three groups: pregnant women and their partners, couples thinking about getting pregnant, and women and men of reproductive age.

Most significant is that pregnant women and their partners should consider postponing nonessential travel to all parts of Miami-Dade County to prevent any complications to the fetus. For most others, the middle-age or the elderly, the Zika virus poses little or no threat.

The travel advisory was placed because there is local transmission of Zika virus — mosquitoes in Miami are infecting people, and people are infecting the mosquitoes.

As of Aug. 2 in Tennessee, we have had 23 confirmed cases of Zika virus (all among travelers), but we have had zero cases transmitted by local mosquitoes. Yet with many such cases occurring locally in Florida, this may change.

The factors that lead to the spread of the Zika virus are few: pools of standing water where mosquitoes breed, travelers who bring the Zika disease from different areas, and a local population that lives in poverty with unscreened doors or windows and without air-conditioning.

I often wonder if the Zika infected mosquitoes will be soon present in the Memphis area. The answer is simple. It is not “if” but “when.”

In March 2016, a group of researchers — some of them from NASA, as well as the National Center for Atmospheric Research Application Laboratory — reported on a meteorologically driven model to predict the seasonal abundance of mosquitoes in 50 U.S. cities. Memphis was one of them. They found there was moderate risk of he Zika affected mosquito spreading to Memphis. Combine this with poverty and travelers in the area, and local spread is very likely.

However, the spread of Zika virus in the United States will likely be very limited, unlike many developing countries where tropical mosquito-born diseases like malaria and dengue spread rapidly during the rainy and summer seasons. Also, in these countries, disease surveillance is lacking, and often there are disease epidemics occurring on top of endemic diseases.

We can protect ourselves from Zika virus — through the simple use of mosquito repellent — but more important, we must know that if we protect ourselves, we are also protecting the community by not letting local transmission occur.

Source : Commercial Appeal

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