Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles joined other state officials and science experts on May 9 to announce a partnership of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) to prevent the spread of Zika virus in Kentucky.
The campaign, called “Fight the Bite Day and Night,” aims to provide information to the public about the Zika virus and ways to avoid being bitten by the mosquitoes that carry it.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito and the virus has been identified by the World Health Organization as an international public health threat. There are no known cases of Zika transmission occurring in the state of Kentucky – or any part of the United States – at this time and Zika virus is not known to be circulating in the mosquito population in Kentucky. However, the DPH and the Department of Agriculture are working together to respond to mosquito control issues if the virus enters the state’s mosquito population and emphasizing the importance of localized and individual prevention.
“We need every Kentuckian to be a part of this effort,” Quarles said. “Citizens can do their part by eliminating areas of standing water that could serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes – puddles, old tires, buckets, and any household items that potentially could fill with water if left outside. With your help, we can help minimize the spread of the Zika virus across the commonwealth.”
The KDA’s Division of Environmental Services sprays for mosquitoes at the request of local officials and local health departments. The division operates ultra-low-volume (ULV) fogging machines for mosquito control in parks, summer camps, and other outdoor areas where people congregate. (To find out more about the KDA’s mosquito spraying program, including a mosquito spraying schedule, go to kyagr.com and click on Public Pest and Recycling Assistance in the Regulatory Programs menu.)
There is no vaccine to prevent infection and no specific antiviral treatment for Zika. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain or red/burning eyes. Recent evidence reveals that Zika can cause microcephaly and other fetal birth defects in infants born to women who are infected during pregnancy. Microcephaly is a condition where a baby’s head is smaller than normal. Microcephaly can be found alone or in conjunction with other birth defects. The CDC is also investigating a potential link between Zika and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a sickness of the nervous system in which a person’s own immune system damages the nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and, sometimes, paralysis.
Dr. Ardis Hoven, infectious disease specialist for the DPH, said the virus is circulating in many areas of the world where Kentuckians travel for vacation, work and mission trips. The DPH is advising travelers to take measures to protect themselves and their family members from mosquito bites during travel and for three weeks after departure from an area with active Zika transmission, such as areas in South and Central America and the Caribbean.
More information about the Zika virus can be obtained from the DPH Health Alerts website at http://healthalerts.ky.gov/Pages/Zika.aspx or at cdc.gov/zika/index.html.
Recommendations for Those Traveling to Zika-Affected Areas
• Women who are pregnant should not travel to areas with Zika. Pregnant women who must travel to one of these areas for business or family emergencies should talk to their doctor or other healthcare professional first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites.
• Women trying to become pregnant should consult with their healthcare professional before traveling to these areas and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip.
• Pregnant women should avoid sexual contact with any man who has recently returned from areas with Zika transmission or consistently and correctly use condoms with each sexual encounter for the duration of the pregnancy.
• Men who develop symptoms during or after travel to Zika-affected areas should wear condoms for six months or consider abstaining from sexual activity.
• Men who travel to a Zikaaffected area and do not develop any symptoms within two weeks of travel should wear condoms for 8 weeks after departure from a Zika-affected area. The duration of Zika virus being present in semen after infection is not presently known.