This week, the Director of the Arkansas Department of Health updated legislators on what the department is doing to monitor the Zika virus and prevent an outbreak in our state.
Zika is a virus that is spread through the Aedes species mosquito bites. Arkansas is home to this species of mosquito, but so far no mosquitoes in the state have tested positive for the virus. The Arkansas Department of Health is currently doing active surveillance of our mosquito population and testing on a regular basis.
There are currently no ongoing infections in Arkansas. To date, only one Arkansan has been diagnosed with the virus. This individual had recently traveled out of the country.
The first case of the virus was found in a monkey from Uganda. The word Zika is the name of a park in Uganda where the virus was first discovered.
Current areas of active Zika transmission include most of Central America and portions of South America.
Zika infection is a particular concern to pregnant women because of the association with birth defects including Microcephaly. The health department is asking pregnant women to consider postponing travel to countries where the virus is active. If you are not pregnant and travelling to those areas, you are encouraged to protect yourself from mosquito bites by using repellant with DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus. In order to keep mosquitoes in Arkansas from spreading the virus to other people, you are advised to avoid mosquito bites for the first 10 days after returning home even if you have no symptoms of illness.
The health department says there is evidence the virus can also be transmitted sexually and might be spread through blood transfusion.
More than 80 percent of people who get the virus will not have any symptoms. The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes. Illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting several days to a week.
For more information on how to protect you and your community from the virus, visit the Arkansas Department of Health website at www.healthy.arkansas.gov