The Zika virus doesn’t pose a major threat to Coloradans, unless they travel to countries experiencing outbreaks.
“Here in Colorado, we don’t have a mosquito that would transmit the disease,” said Dr. Jennifer House, a veterinarian and infectious disease expert with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “It’s possible that we could have returning tourists who get infected in another country and then return home to Colorado.”
House said the Aedes Aegypti mosquito is the only one known to carry the Zika virus. She said that mosquito is limited to the Gulf Coast area of the United States.
She said the Aedes Albopictus, or Tiger mosquito, may be able to transmit the virus, but until there is an outbreak in areas where that mosquito predominates, they won’t know for sure.
She said the tiger mosquito’s range extends a little further north from the Gulf Coast up to Indiana and east toward the Chesapeake region.
More alarming is the first documented case of Zika being transmitted sexually.
According to the CDC, the patient had sex with someone who had recently returned form Venezuela, which is experiencing an outbreak.
“There is one publication that has a documented case of sexual transmission,” House said. “That is the only case we are aware of. We are predominantly concerned that this is a mosquito borne disease.”
This map from the Centers for Disease Control shows the countries that are experiencing an outbreak.
House says people who travel to those countries should take steps to protect themselves from mosquitos.
“Any individual who is pregnant or intending to become pregnant should postpone travel to affected countries,” she said.
That’s because of concern that Zika may be linked to microcephaly whichs is a deformity of the head in newborns.
Several cases were reported shortly after an outbreak of Zika in Brazil.
Those deformities have led some health officials to suggest lifting the ban on DDT, an insecticide that was widely used in the 1950s and ‘60s and that was linked to reproductive problems among the bald eagle population.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said DDT interfered with the bald eagles ability to produce strong egg shells.
Dr. Gilbert Ross, senior director of medicine and public health at the American Council on Science and Health told Denver7 that DDT has been credited with saving more lives than any other chemical, except for Penicillin.
He said it was used to control mosquitos that spread Malaria.
“The data showing it harmed birds and eggshells was flawed at the get go,” Ross said. “Even if you believe that DDT may have been harmful to certain types of birds, which I do not agree with, if you balance millions of human lives against potential harm to certain types of birds, I don’t see why that becomes a question for reasonable people to debate.”
Ross said, DDT in small amounts can help control the spread of Zika without causing any harm.
Zika infections are usually mild.
Dr. House said most people who contract Zika experience a fever, rash, joint pain and redness of the eyes.
She said they get better in a week and are thought to then have lifelong immunity.