Zika virus has long been known as a mosquito borne illness, but evidence now shows that Zika can also be transmitted from human to human through sex. Zika virus can be found in semen for up to six months. This new information is particularly alarming in light of the risk that Zika can cause severe birth defects if a woman is infected during pregnancy.
A worldwide outbreak of Zika virus struck in 2015, with its epicenter in Brazil.
Currently, there are no locally acquired cases of Zika virus in Hawaii. The only cases of Zika in Hawaii have occurred when a resident or a visitor has traveled to an area with Zika, and returned to Hawaii with an infection.
Zika virus is spread by aedes mosquitoes. Aedes albopictus mosquitoes are found on Maui, so the virus has the potential to spread here by mosquito in addition to the sexual route of transmission.
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.
Human fetuses, however, are susceptible to severe birth defects if the mother is infected with Zika virus. For this reason, state and local governments around the country are taking measures to control mosquitoes and educate people about transmission of Zika virus through mosquitoes and through sex. On Maui, Department of Health educators are reaching out to healthcare providers and partnering with schools, farmers, businesses, and government agencies to educate the entire community about the danger of Zika virus.
There is currently local spreading of Zika in small areas of Florida and Texas, as well as Mexico, Central and South America, Pacific Islands, Cape Verde, and other places. Travelers to and from those areas should be particularly careful.
Preventing the spread of Zika into new areas like Maui includes the following:
- Educate residents or visitors who are diagnosed with Zika on Maui
- to avoid mosquito bites
- to use condoms or abstain from sex for up to 6 months
- Educate general public about mosquito borne and sexual transmission of Zika virus
- Prevent mosquitoes from biting you: use repellent and cover skin (long pants, long sleeves, and socks)
- Reducing mosquito breeding by emptying standing water and other methods.
Click here for more information about mosquito control.
Visit http://www.cdc.gov/zika/ for more information about Zika.
See below for a video explanation of how Department of Health responds to “suspect” cases of Zika virus (and other mosquito-borne illnesses) from Dr. Lorrin Pang.