The Zika virus has been talked about extensively in recent months and those concerns have prompted Sampson health officials to urge caution among residents, who they said can protect themselves in a variety of ways.
“There’s been so much information about the Zika virus in the news lately,” said Health director Wanda Robinson.
Kathie Johnson, director of nursing for the Sampson County Health Department, said there have been 2,920 cases in the United States through Sept. 7 that are travel-related. North Carolina had 52 of those cases, all related to travel.
One was reported in Sampson, according to Robinson.
The Zika virus disease is caused by a viral infection spread to people primarily through the bite of a mosquito. The illness is usually mild with symptoms including mild fever, rash, joint and muscle pain, conjunctivitis (red eyes) and headache. These symptoms normally last 2-7 days with no hospital stay.
People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika.
However, Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly and other severe brain defects. As of the beginning of this month, Zika has only been found in the Aedes Aegypti mosquito in the United States, which is not currently present in North Carolina, local health officials said.
“I don’t think there is anyone that has not heard of Zika,” Johnson said. “The biggest thing about it is that it affects babies.”
Multiple agencies are working together through North Carolina to monitor for the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, with vector surveillance set up across the state. That monitoring process is expected to continue until Zika is no longer considered a major health threat to pregnant women.
“I hope we have a cold winter this year, especially in Florida — and dry,” said Johnson. “A cold winter would be fantastic because it would help bring down the mosquito population.”
A pregnant woman can pass Zika to her fetus during pregnancy or around the time of birth. Also, people with Zika can pass it to their sex partners. People who have traveled to or live in places with Zika are encouraged to protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites and avoiding sexual transmission of Zika.
The Health Department’s Perry Solice Jr. explained the “Tip and Toss” campaign, a way to prevent the presence of mosquitoes by removing “any type of standing water in containers.”
He said it is important to control mosquitoes by removing places where they lay eggs. Water-filled containers are a breeding ground. Solice offered tips to prevent such situations, including:
• Disposing of any tires
• Drilling holes in bottom of recycle container
• Cleaning and dumping pet water dishes regularly
• Checking and emptying children’s toys
• Repairing leaky outdoor faucets
• Changing water in bird baths at least weekly
Even the smallest of containers that collect water can lead to breeding of hundreds to thousands of mosquitoes, Solice said.
“It doesn’t take much water for them to start laying eggs,” he remarked.
He also urged residents to protect themselves by wearing light colored, loose-fitting clothing, and when practical, long sleeves and pants. The use of insect repellents is another way to control mosquito bites, he said, recommending DEET, Picaridin and Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus.
“Just read labels carefully before applying,” Solice said.
Anyone with concerns or questions is asked to contact the Sampson County Health Department at 910-592-1131.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.