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Sep 2016

REVIEW: Is the Zika virus still a threat in the United States?



It ravaged Brazil first; terrorizing pregnant mothers and expectant fathers. Injected into humans through the prick of a mosquito’s bite, the Zika virus spread quickly throughout South America. By 2016, the World Health Organization declared it was possible the Zika virus would spread throughout the entirety of South and Middle America, and to many parts of the United States. Now, 2016 is well underway, and mosquito season is still in full swing. So, what does the Zika outbreak look like now in the United States?

Need to Know Facts

The Zika virus is spread by the female genders of two different subspecies of the Aedes mosquito. The Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus both carry Zika and transmit it through a bite. Both of these strains of mosquito are common in tropical, subtropical, and temperate climates. This makes them adaptable to almost every portion of the continental United States.

The Aedues aegypti mosquito tends to inhabit areas that are closer in proximity to humans. Consequently, they are more likely to feed on humans than the albopictus strain of mosquito; which is more likely to be found in wild areas. Still, both strains of mosquitos are found in much of the continental United States. This makes the spread of the Zika virus a serious concern.

Humans can contract the virus through the bite of a mosquito. The virus can also be sexually transmitted between humans. Once contracted, the virus exhibits flu-like symptoms, but it is the effects the virus has on the development of children that is the real threat. Zika is known to cause serious birth defects in children, and this is where the greatest concern lies.

What About Your Workplace?

The Zika Virus is a legitimate threat to the health and safety of developing children. It is likely that there are pregnant women, expectant fathers, or couples in your workplace that are attempting to have a child. Protecting them from the Zika virus is of utmost importance. It is important to remember pregnant women are not the only ones at risk. Men who contract the virus can transmit it to their partners, thus contributing to the spread of Zika.  

Where is your workplace based? Which areas should be especially concerned with the Zika virus? The CDC provides updated data on the current number of Zika cases in each of the 50 states. Currently, Florida is the hotbed for Zika cases. The CDC separated all Zika infections into two categories: travel-associated cases, and locally acquired cases. Florida and New York are the only two states with 500 or more travel-associated cases. Overall, there are just over 3,000 travel-associated cases throughout the United States.

It is important to note that Florida is the only state in the United States where Zika has been found in a local setting. The CDC reports that Florida has 43 locally acquired cases. There are no other locally acquired cases in the US. Florida is considered a hotbed for Zika at this time due to its high mosquito-friendly climate: high humidity, and wet conditions.

What you should do?

It is important for you to identify the current risk level in your immediate area. Contact local medical offices and inquire about the Zika risk pertaining to your location. Employees who travel around the country should be especially aware of the circumstances in the areas to which they travel. If you are in an area where Zika is a threat, then you should:

  1. Wear mosquito repellent. Especially outdoor workers, or whenever you will be outside in an area where Zika can be contracted through a mosquito bite.
  2. Wear long sleeves and pants. The clothing barrier will help protect your skin from bites.
  3. Use appropriate forms of protection if you are sexually active.
  4. Employers: hold a seminar or information session on the risk of Zika in your area. Consider bringing in a medical professional to address your workforce.

Ultimately, the Zika virus is affecting a very small number of individuals. However, the ease with which Zika is transmitted, and the range the Aedes Mosquitos have sets the table for an outbreak. Do your part; protect your employees and help reduce the chances the virus has to spread around the country.

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