Featured, Preparedness, Public Health

Zika Virus

An unprecedented worldwide outbreak of Zika virus occurred between 2015 and 2017. Brazil was notably the epicenter of the pandemic, but virus spread to places throughout South America, Central America, Mexico, the Philippines, and parts of South Asia and the Pacific Islands. In the United States, cases were reported in many states, but local transmission was limited to Texas and Florida.

Zika had long been known as a mosquito borne virus, but the pandemic revealed several important new findings about the virus:

  • severe birth defects can occur if a woman is infected during pregnancy
  • Zika virus can be transmitted from one human to another through sex
  • Zika virus can be found in semen for up to six months.

Currently (as of April 19, 2019), Zika virus is not spreading in the United States. But travelers to and from areas that have been affected by Zika in the past should be stay up-to-date about health-related travel advisories.

Locally acquired cases of Zika virus have never been detected in Hawaii. The only cases of Zika confirmed in Hawaii occurred when a resident or a visitor traveled to an area with Zika and returned to Hawaii with a Zika virus infection.

Zika virus is spread by aedes mosquitoes. Becuase Aedes albopictus mosquitoes are found on Maui, the virus has the potential to spread here by mosquito – in addition to the sexual route of transmission. For this to occur, the virus would have to be “brought” here, either in the blood of an infected person or in a mosquito infected elsewhere that somehow makes its way to Maui.

Symptoms of Zika infection can include a fever, joint pain, rash, headache, and conjunctivitis (pink eye). Only about 20% of people with Zika infection have symptoms.  When symptoms occur, they can last several days to a week or longer.

Because human fetuses are susceptible to severe birth defects if the mother is infected with Zika virus, state and local governments around the country took measures to control mosquitoes and educate people about transmission of Zika virus through mosquitoes and through sex.

On Maui, in 2016 and 2017, Department of Health educators and outreach workers reached out to healthcare providers and partnered with schools, farmers, businesses, and other government agencies to educate the entire community about the dangers of Zika virus and the ways it is transmitted.

We educated the public about mosquito transmission and sexual transmission of Zika virus, including the following messages.

Prevent mosquitoes from biting you by :

  • Using mosquito repellent
  • Covering your skin (long pants, long sleeves, and socks)
  • Reducing mosquito breeding by emptying standing water

If you are diagnosed with Zika virus while on Maui:

  • Avoid mosquito bites, so the Zika virus will not be transmitted to others
  • Use condoms or abstain from sex for up to 6 months

Click here for more information about mosquito control.

Visit http://www.cdc.gov/zika/ for more information about Zika.

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Click here to go directly to Search Tool for EPA registered repellent.

See below for a video explanation from Dr. Lorrin Pang of how Hawaii State Department of Health responds to “suspect” cases of Zika virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses.

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