Zika has stepped back from the headlines, but the threat hasn’t left, especially across the far south and north.
The state of international emergency which was adopted by the World Health Organization in 2015 due to the Zika crisis has faded from public view for most of us, but the stories live on. And so does the virus.
Because of this, researchers in the U.S are currently taking steps to be vigilant in the path of the disease.
It’s thought that the illness, which can be transmitted by mosquitoes and infect pregnant mothers causing babies to be born with microcephaly, or a permanently under-developed brain, could likely widen its presence in the continental U.S. as time goes on.
It’s unknown exactly how far and wide the disease may spread. What is evident is that when it takes hold, Zika can wreak disaster. Puerto Rico has already taken a large hit when it comes to the disease. Up to 1,035 pregnant women have been diagnosed with the illness in the region that presents an extremely inviting environment for the virus thrive in. Moist, wet and humid, it’s a mosquito paradise.
What about the rest of the country, though? Luckily, so far the continental U.S has largely stayed away from having to deal with the disaster. That may not always be the case, though.
North and South
Researchers have put their minds together to try and predict the future of the virus. Scientists from St. Louis University have predicted which areas of the continental United States Zika is most likely to be transmitted.
Places that are warm, and unfortunately, also those that may be impoverished are most likely to be breeding grounds.
When it comes to mosquito transmission, places like Arkansas, Louisiana, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia could see numbers rise.
Experts have found that in this category, Zika is most likely to be transmitted along the Mississippi delta and in the southern states, extending northward along the Atlantic coast and into southern California.
As for transmission via sexual contact, in contrast, Alaska could be an area with higher rates of the virus.
Why? Surprisingly, it’s the state with the highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases.
Given its northern climate though, this would rely on some of its residents first doing some considerable travel to a warmer place to come in contact with with the virus, and so the real risk in Alaska remains to be seen.
Other more certain high-risk states for sexual transmission include many of the southern states already at risk due to their geography: places like New Mexico, Mississippi, North Carolina and Georgia.
The scary thing is that almost 80 percent of people who contract Zika don’t show any symptoms at all. This means that the chances of the virus being transmitted sexually are high.
How can you protect yourself? If you are pregnant or planning on becoming so, do your best to avoid being in contact with mosquitoes, day and night. Use insect repellent, and protect yourself during sex.
Experts recommend that couples who are pregnant and living in high-risk Zika areas always use a condom every time they have sex, throughout the entire duration of the pregnancy.
If you’re not in a high-risk zone but you’re pregnant, logically, do not travel to a Zika-risk area.
If you must go, contact your health care provider and use a condom at all times during your pregnancy. Your partner may not display any outward symptoms at all but they could still be infected.
For more information, check out these tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
(photo credits: www.pixabay.com)