Written by Tiana Foster, Staff Writer
As of Sept 12, 2016, there have been 80 confirmed travel-related Zika cases in Georgia. The virus was initially discovered in Uganda in 1947 and its presence in the United States was confirmed May 2015. Traveling to South and Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean could put people at a risk of infection. Although the virus has not been spread by mosquitoes in Georgia, it has been transmitted in surrounding Florida areas such as Miami and Dade County.
The Zika virus has raised a high level of concern which has resulted in The World Health Organization declaring the virus as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
The virus is commonly spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus are the two types of infected mosquitoes that can be found in Georgia. Although the virus is primarily transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, it can also transmit through unprotected sex. Males or females can carry the virus and possibly put others at risk.
People infected with the virus have experienced mild symptoms such as: fever, rash, aching joints and headache. But there has not been any life threatening symptoms reported. The symptoms typically last for several days to a week. Many people don’t know they are infected because they weren’t sick enough to have to go to the hospital. The virus doesn’t severely affect the body.
The virus remains in the blood for about a week and once a person has been infected, it’s likely they are protected from future infections.
Doctors are monitoring pregnant women very closely for any signs of the virus because it is known to cause a serious birth defect: microcephaly. It causes the child to have an unusually small head and suffer from low brain development.
According to Lynette Lewis, Health Services administrator, the cost to test for the Zika virus is expensive. The local health department has requested that if there is any suspect of a patient to have Zika, that the health center refer the patient to the health department for testing.
In late July of this year, Reggae artist Beenie Man contracted the Zika virus and because of his illness, he was denied access into Canada.
Detroit Tigers pitcher Francisco Rodriguez also became infected with the virus after visiting his home country, Venezuela.
Due to the virus’ ability to transmit so easily, students were asked whether or not they ever heard of the virus and if they are aware of how to take certain precautions against contracting it.
“I don’t really know a lot about the virus, I just know that it got to the United States,” Alexis Brooks, sociology major, said.
Some students have just recently learned the news about the virus while a few states have already been exposed for several months.
“I maybe have heard about the virus like last month,” Allen Igwebuike, business major, said. “There was like 50 cases.”
On the other hand, there are some students who are well aware of the virus and know some of the precautions they can take.
“Yeah I’ve heard about the virus and I know that it’s some basic mosquito repellent you can use to prevent yourself from getting it,” Jamal Rosario, history major, said.
Even though a vaccine hasn’t been created yet to treat Zika, according to the Department of Public Health, there are a few hacks to prevent contracting it.
Using an EPA-registered repellent, wearing long-sleeved shirts, pants, socks and properly discarding any standing water around your house decreases chances of becoming infected.
It’s best to see a doctor if you have experienced any of the symptoms described and avoid traveling to locations where the virus is being transmitted.