The Alexandria Health Department held a community meeting about Zika and mosquitoes on Wednesday, July 20, 6:30-7:30 p.m. at Alexandria Beatley Library.
Forty-three cases have been identified in Virginia, 24 of which are in Northern Virginia, and are all travel related. The current outbreak of the Zika virus is the largest outbreak that has ever occurred. One in five people who are infected will develop symptoms. The Zika virus is linked to birth defects, and currently there is no vaccine or medicine to treat it.
There are 300 species of mosquitoes in the United States, 50 of which are in Virginia. Zika virus is carried by Asian Tiger Mosquitoes.
Asian Tiger Mosquitoes lay eggs in containers that hold standing water, such as buckets, tarps and old jacuzzis. They can even lay eggs in water the size of a bottle cap. Asian Tiger Mosquito eggs take one week to mature into adults. For this reason, the Health Department advises residents to eliminate standing water around their home at least once a week. After it rains, tip over containers with water. Less standing water denies mosquitoes the opportunity to breed.
Daniel Sherwood, the city’s Vector Biologist, examines public areas in Alexandria with standing water. There are 14 trap sites around the city where his team identifies the type of mosquito and tests them for viruses. If you see standing water on public property, give Sherwood a call, and he will treat the water so that mosquitoes cannot lay eggs there.
The Health Department has other tips to “fight the bite:” use bug spray, and always follow the directions on the label, use window screens, cover up when necessary, and wear light-colored clothing because dark colored clothing attracts mosquitoes.
Lisa Guli, the Alexandria Health Department Epidemiologist, said that “humans are the primary reservoir for the Zika virus.” The virus can be passed from a pregnant woman to her unborn child, through blood transfusions, and it can be sexually transmitted.
At greatest risk are travelers, partners of travelers or of someone who has contracted the virus, and pregnant women and their fetuses. Currently, areas with active Zika transmission are Central and South America, and the Caribbean.
The Health Department is working to inform the community about the Zika virus through meetings on the third Wednesday of every month from June to October. Visit www.alexandriava.gov/Health.