As of Feb. 8, there is one known case of Zika virus in Virginia, according to Alexandria Health Department Director Stephen Haering. He provided some context to the concern about Zika: Zika virus is acquired through the bite of an infected mosquito, and, although information is now surfacing that Zika may have been transferred between humans during sexual intercourse, generally it is not transmitted from person to person, but by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. While Aedes aegypti lives in Virginia, the population of these mosquitoes is relatively small in number.
Mosquito control is a concern in the Northern Virginia area. To minimize mosquito breeding, don’t leave standing pools of water around plants in or outside the house.
The Zika virus has existed for some time, and like its cousins Dengue Fever and Chikungunya, has not been prevalent in countries where the mosquito is not active all year long as it is in tropical countries.
Further, unlike West Nile virus disease, which was carried by birds (the reservoir for the disease) and then to the mosquitos which acted as vectors, the Zika virus is only carried by human reservoirs. Therefore a mosquito has to bite an infected human to then transmit it to another human through a second bite. Haering cited the similarity of Zika virus with Dengue Fever, a mosquito-borne illness which also uses humans as reservoirs and is prevalent in the tropics. Like Dengue Fever, there is not a vaccine against Zika; the best ways to avoid getting mosquito-borne illnesses is to eliminate standing water around one’s home and to take precautions to avoid being bitten by using insect repellant, covering skin with clothing (long sleeve shirts and long pants) when outside, and avoid mosquito habitats such as shaded areas with shrubs. "Dengue Fever has been around for a long time, and there are only one or two cases of locally transmitted Dengue nationwide," said Haering. In tropical areas, by contrast, it is transmitted frequently.
Haering urged Alexandrians concerned about Zika virus to read the Alexandria Department of Health website which has up-to-date information about Zika. Current advice includes that women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant not travel to Zika-affected countries. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidance is also listed on the Alexandria Health Department website, and it reiterates that if a pregnant woman travelled to Zika-affected area, she should consult with her healthcare provider. Medical tests (blood tests and ultrasounds) can be conducted to help guide the pregnant woman and her healthcare provider. While there appears to be an association between the spread of the virus to South America and an increase in microcephaly cases there, the exact causation has not yet been established, according to Haering. The World Health Organization (WHO) is studying the relationship and will issue a report when it has enough data. For more information, see
www.cdc.gov/zika/; http://www.alexandriava.gov/health/info/default.aspx?id=89508 and http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/zika/en/. To know what scientists are saying about sexual transmission of Zika, see also:
http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/02/03/465339603/what-we-know-so-far-about-sexual-transmission-of-zika-virus and to read an in depth write up about Zika in the New England Journal of Medicine see: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1600297.