Zika Virus

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A worldwide outbreak of Zika virus began in 2015, with its epicenter in Brazil.  Cases occurred in South America, Central America, the Caribbean, and Mexico. There were also many travel-related and sexually transmitted* cases in the United States and other countries. Local mosquito borne transmission of Zika occurred in small areas of Florida and Texas.

Locally acquired cases of Zika virus have not been reported 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 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.

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.

Preventing the spread of Zika into new areas like Maui includes the following:

  • Education of 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
  • Education of general public about
        • mosquito borne and sexual transmission of Zika virus
        • importance of repellent and covering skin (long pants, long sleeves, and socks) to avoid mosquito bites
  • Reducing mosquito breeding by emptying standing water and other methods

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

Click here for more information about mosquito control.

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Watch the video below to see and explanation of how Department of Health responds to “suspect” cases of Zika virus (and other mosquito-borne illnesses), by Maui District Health Officer Lorrin Pang.