Keeping an eye on Zika: preparing for summer travel

With Memorial Day weekend approaching, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hopes to keep the Zika virus on your mind. There are 544 travel-related cases reported so far, and we could see that number go up.

The CDC report shows five cases in Kentucky, two in Tennessee, 16 in Illinois, and three in Missouri.

The virus coming from more than 26 countries. The CDC says those include areas in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

There are two mosquitoes that can carry Zika. Aedes Aegypti is more likely to carry the virus but makes a loop in the projected breeding map, essentially bypassing the majority of our area. Aedes albopictus is less likely, as it feeds on animals and people. That mosquito, though, is likely to be in our area.

The projected range of the mosquitoes is why many health and agriculture experts in our area say don’t panic.

Charlyn King made a stop through Paducah on her way to Quincy, Illinois. She’s got two young children and a kitten to worry about, and Zika didn’t make the list. “It must be new. I had not even heard of it,” she told me. “We take precautions. We use bug spray. We stay in when we can." But her philosophy is that you have to live life.

Dr. David Schell says there is no reason to panic at this point, because the type of mosquito that’s most likely to carry the virus isn’t in our area. “The main people that we’re worried about now are pregnant women. Those women, if they’re pregnant, need to take a lot of precautions,” he said.

Outside of the possible birth defects, the virus isn’t fatal. Graves County Agriculture Agent Trent Murdock says it’s still a good idea to take steps to eliminate the threat. He says you should empty out containers that hold water, including tires, trash cans, buckets, even something as small as a bottle cap.

One of the biggest problems with the virus is detection. One in five people with the virus show few or no symptoms. Some of the common symptoms include fever, rash, joint and muscle pain, and pink eye.

King is kicking off the summer worry free. “We trust that God’s going to take care of us," King said. "Give us what we need to be safe.”

If you are pregnant, the CDC recommends that you postpone travel to areas with Zika. And, if you are pregnant and your male significant travels to those areas, the CDC recommends using condoms until the end of your pregnancy to prevent spreading the virus. 

For more ways to keep your family safe from Zika when outside, click here

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