Wednesday, February 10th, 2016
Morris County health and mosquito experts made a detailed presentation to the Morris County Freeholders today about the Zika virus, explaining that only one travel-related case has been diagnosed in New Jersey and none yet in Morris County.
Morris County Health Officer Carlos Perez and Mosquito Control Administrator Kris McMorland, at a public session in Morristown, urged the public not to panic about the virus, and to seek information from government health agencies.
They stressed that county officials are working closely with federal, state, and county health officials to monitor the virus and obtain the most up-to-date information. They also are working during the winter “mosquito off-season’’ to limit future exposure of residents to mosquito-borne diseases.
“Most important, it is necessary to understand that this is a very fluid situation, with new facts emerging on Zika every day, so it’s important to use reliable sources for information, such as the (federal) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state Department of Health, and county and municipal health departments,’’ said Perez.
Infected mosquitoes remain the primary source of Zika virus transmission. Perez explained that some other modes of transmission, including sexual encounters, are being investigated. While Zika has been detected in urine and saliva of humans, at this time there is no evidence of transmission via these bodily fluids. Also, Zika cannot be spread via casual contact, he said.
Exact risks for women during pregnancy are unknown and currently vigorously being investigated, he said. He noted the virus has been linked with a condition that may have caused brain damage and small heads in newborns (microcephaly) in Brazil, and stressed that issue is being carefully studied.
Pregnant women are strongly encouraged to heed travel advisories and avoid countries where Zika is a problem. Also, pregnant women returning from countries with Zika virus are advised to talk to their doctors and monitor potential symptoms.
The most common symptoms of the Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Symptoms typically begin 2 to 7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.
Importantly, there is no vaccine or treatment for this virus. Anyone suspecting they have contracted the virus should consult with their physician, he said.
The main mosquito that transmits Zika virus – and also dengue fever, chikungunya and yellow fever – is Aedes aegypti, said McMorland. There are no populations of this mosquito in New Jersey, scientists are trying to determine if another specie might be a carrier.
The most likely carrier in this region would be Aedes albopictus, known as the Asian Tiger Mosquito.
McMorland said county mosquito crews are working this winter to target and clear out potential mosquito breeding grounds. He urged county residents to take steps this spring to eliminate standing water around their homes to reduce mosquito breeding: http://morriscountynj.gov/mosquito/whatyoucando/
Perez said New Jersey health officials continue to monitor the spread of Zika virus. He noted the following facts:
For more information, visit the CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/
The State Health Department: http://www.nj.gov/health/cd/zika/index.shtml
Morris County Office of Health Management: http://health.morriscountynj.gov/