Zika Virus Leaves North Texas with Health Concerns

Zika Virus Leaves North Texas with Health Concerns

by Susan Neuhalfen

News about a mosquito-borne virus that has shown to be transmitted through humans has been buzzing around North Texas. This has been instilling worry into families and especially pregnant women, who are concerned due to the possible birth defects it can cause.

The Zika virus is spread from human to human after one is bitten by an infected Aedes mosquito, according to the Denton County Health Services Department. Aedes mosquitoes bite aggressively during the day.Experts say Zika is mainly associated with travel to Central and South America. Several cases have been reported in Dallas. One of the first cases during the current outbreak was suspected to be sexually transmitted. Normally, the virus is not spread through human contact.

The immediate concern has been for fetuses because of an alarming connection between Zika and a neurological birth disorder that leaves the head and brain underdeveloped.The Centers for Disease Control says the condition, called Microcephaly, can cause seizures, developmental delay, intellectual disability, problems with movement and balance, difficulty swallowing, hearing loss and vision problems. In severe cases, Microcephaly can be life threatening.

Doctors at two Houston hospitals have developed the first hospital-based rapid test for Zika. Dallas County has requested approval for testing to be done locally rather than having to ship samples off the Atlanta-based CDC.
Tips to help avoid being infected by a Zika-carrying mosquito
Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants
Use mosquito repellents, coils etc.
Use window/door screens
Drain standing water from
outdoor containers

The CDC recommends that pregnant women do not travel to areas with reported Zika Virus cases. They also suggest using permethrin-treated clothing and gear. Insect repellents with DEET in them are safe for pregnant women to use when done according to the product label.

The City of Highland Village, for example, is contracting with Municipal Mosquito for the identification, control and eradication of mosquitoes which can carry Zika, Chikungunya or West Nile Virus.Municipal Mosquito has performed mosquito management services, trained city staff to receive Texas Department of Health licenses to spray mosquito control chemicals in creeks and wooded areas throughout the city.The Denton County Health Department is working with the medical community to increase awareness, testing and reporting of Zika in order to respond to anyone who could be potentially contaminated.

The health department is monitoring local, national and worldwide trends to determine the risks to public health. Using vector control activities based on surveillance in hopes to reduce local impact.

Hollie Woodham, owner of Mosquito Joe of Northwest Dallas-Fort Worth, said people have already been inquiring about their services.

“We are getting calls and I certainly think the media does its job as far as putting that fear into our society,” she said. “We don’t market toward blood borne illnesses. We just try to educate and help customers understand. The good news is … all of the patients that have been diagnosed have actually traveled to the area where ground zero is. I think when we get to the point where it’s a mosquito in Texas … then yes, that’s when it’s time to be concerned.”

Mosquito Joe’s goal is to get to a 95 percent reduction in mosquito activity.

“We focus and partner with the homeowner to rid the yard of mosquitoes, fleas and ticks. The product treats about 30 other bugs.”

A barrier treatment is applied to where the family will spend the majority of their time. The product is naturally based and is safe for kids and dogs. This type of treatment addresses the mature population that already exists, then also builds a barrier to keep other mosquitoes from flying near it.
“They are lazy creatures,” Woodham said. “They only go about 200-300 feet in a lifetime. When they’re traveling they are looking to find the next plant or flowering shrub to land Mosquito Joe maintains treatment throughout the season. It takes 2-4 applications to reach that 95 percent mark.

Crews also look for water sources that are a going to breed mosquitoes, such as French drains and bird baths.

“A soda cap full of water is all a mosquito needs to breed. If we don’t address those sources they will repopulate the area very quickly.”

Mosquito Joe starts treating in the middle of March, and this year crews are already getting calls and are out working.

“The earlier you start the better you are because you get ahead of the influx of the mosquito population. Some are active now because we’ve had a very mild winter.

Mosquitoes are there, they’re apparent but really we’re focusing on the eggs … to minimize the population for when it really starts warming up. Right before it gets cold females will lay an extra round of eggs and what they’ve laid in the ground stays dormant for up to 5 years,” Woodham said.

She also notes that there are other more natural options people try themselves, such as citronella shrubs and rosemary. By-in-large, she believes, those aren’t as effective as a Mosquito
Joe treatment.

If you have any questions or concerns of being potentially infected you should contact your primary physician. Only 1 out of 5 people infected will become ill and show symptoms  which include;  fever, rash, joint pain, headaches or red eyes.
The threat of Zika has left many Denton county residents wondering if their yard is safe but with proper landscaping and pest control most residents can enjoy their yards in the summer.

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