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Officials: Zika not a local danger

Reported single Bulloch case is travel related


August 26, 2016

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    While a solitary case of travel-related Zika virus infection was reported in Bulloch County Wednesday, local city and health officials say there is no cause for panic.
    Measures to prevent Zika and other mosquito-borne viruses have been in place for some time, and the mosquitoes that carry the virus have not been detected anywhere in Georgia, officials say.
    While little information is being released about the person in Bulloch County who contracted the virus, health officials said it is important to know the case is travel related, meaning the virus was contracted elsewhere. There have been no mosquitoes that carry the virus discovered in the state, much less Bulloch County, said Robert Seamans, streets and parks superintendent for the city of Statesboro.
    A notice issued late Wednesday by Georgia Southern University Dean of Students Patrice Jackson stated a person, not identified in the emailed campus alert, tested positive for Zika virus in Bulloch County but that the virus was contracted elsewhere.
    “It is important to understand that this case is travel associated and there is no evidence that Zika is being transmitted in our area," the notice stated.
    Mary Beth Kennedy, public information officer for the Southeast Health District, which covers 16 counties including Bulloch County, said Thursday that all 60 cases of Zika in Georgia have been travel related.
    The virus is contracted when a person travels to an area where the virus exists, and is bitten by a certain type of mosquito that carries the virus, or by having sexual intercourse with a person who contracted the virus, she said.
    The people most at-risk of negative effects from the virus are women who may become pregnant or are pregnant and are bitten by a mosquito carrying Zika or have sex with a man carrying the virus, she said. Zika is connected to microcephaly in infants born to women who have the virus.
    The disease is caused by a virus transmitted primarily by Aedes mosquitoes and symptoms can include mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise or headache. These symptoms normally last for 2-7 days, according to Google.com.
    The majority of those infected do not show symptoms, according to www.medicalnewstoday.com.
    There is a community in Miami where the Aedes genus of mosquito has been found, Seamans said. “These mosquitoes do not exist in Bulloch Ciounty and have not been located in Georgia.”
    He added that that this type of mosquito has a very short life span, does not travel and feeds only on humans. These facts are reasons a Zika outbreak in the area is highly unlikely, he said.
    However, it is understandable that there could be travel-related Zika cases in Statesboro, because “we do have an international community that is a big part of Statesboro.”
    Georgia Southern University students from other areas or countries, or people who travel to areas where Zika is prevalent, may contract the disease and come back home to test positive, he said.
    Again, the only way a person in Bulloch County could get the virus is to have sexual contact with an infected person or to have traveled to a place where the specific species of mosquito that carries Zika exists, he said.
    Although the Zika-carryng Aedes mosquitoes are not found here, Statesboro city officials are actively monitoring and spraying areas, Seamans said.
    Adulticides are sprayed, and larvicides are used in some areas where water stands. These methods target all types of mosquito.
    The best preventative for mosquito-borne illnesses, or just being aggravated by the pests, is to make sure there is no trapped or standing water in your area, he said.
    The city also reaches out to educate people about mosquito prevention through door hangers, pamphlets and other means, he said.
    Bulloch County has no mosquito prevention program, but Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn said “Bulloch County is not a risk at this time of the Zika virus.”
    Wynn also recommends pouring out any water standing in old tires, flower pots, pet bowls or anything that can trap rainwater. Other measures of preventing mosquito-borne disease includes wearing insect repellent and long-sleeved clothing and avoiding the outdoors during times when mosquitoes are out.

    Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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