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Zika Virus Archived Discussion Room

Fairfax County, Virginia

Zika Virus

Zika virus is spreading throughout the southern hemisphere, but what does that mean for people here in Fairfax County? Join a health department epidemiologist for an online chat Feb. 19 at 11 a.m. to get your questions answered about Zika virus - what is, where it is, and why it is of concern. Submit a question in advance or visit online Feb. 19 to participate.


Shawn Kiernan : Good morning! The Zika Virus outbreak is an evolving situation with a lot of concern among our community members. The Fairfax County Health Department is grateful for this opportunity to address community questions in this forum. Here today from the Health Department is Shawn Kiernan (Communicable Disease Epidemiologist), Barbara Downes (Communicable Disease Epidemiologist), and Josh Smith (Disease Carrying Insects Program Manager).


Anonymous User : After a person is infected with Zika, how long are they able to transmit the virus to mosquitoes that bite them after they are infected? In other words, how long does it take for the virus to clear the system?

Shawn Kiernan :

During the first week of infection (7 days) with Zika virus, Zika virus is found in a person’s blood and can pass from an infected person to a mosquito through mosquito bites. An infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people during those 7 days.

We do not know how long Zika can stay in semen, the CDC is researching this question. 


Anonymous User : Once a person has been infected once and the virus clears their system, are they able to be infected again? AND if they get pregnant after the virus has cleared the system is there any risk to the baby?

Shawn Kiernan :

At this time, it is believed that once you have been infected with Zika virus, you are protected from Zika virus (immune system developed antibodies).

Once a person is no longer infected, there is no risk to the baby.


Anonymous User : Will Fairfax County be screening mosquitoes for Zika during mosquito season?

Joshua Smith : Although mosquito testing for Zika virus is not currently in place, we do hope to have that option available during the mosquito season. We do have different types of mosquito traps that we use in our surveillance activities and one of them is an effective surveillance trap for the Asian Tiger mosquito, a potential carrier of the Zika virus.


Anonymous User : I'm headed to one of the affected areas in a couple weeks for vacation. Other than using repellant, it doesn't seem there is much I can do to avoid Zika, yes? And I haven't seen much on potential long term affects for those other than pregnant women who may get Zika - is there anything known?

Shawn Kiernan :

For the first part of your question:

The best way to prevent diseases spread by mosquitoes is to protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites. CDC recommends the following:

Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.

Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.

Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents.
When used as directed, these insect repellents are proven safe and effective even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Insect repellents should not be used in babies younger than 2 months old. Products containing higher than 30% DEET should not be used in children, and products containing para-menthane-diol should not be used in children younger than 3 years old.

Mosquito netting can be used to cover babies younger than 2 months old in carriers, strollers, or cribs to protect them from mosquito bites.

Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used in children younger than 3 years old.

Sleep under a mosquito bed net if air conditioned or screened rooms are not available or if sleeping outdoors.

For the second part of your question:

There is a lot that is unknown about Zika Virus. Currently we believe that long term affects are limited to pregnant women. If you are traveling to an affected area, please discuss this travel with your healthcare  provider.


Anonymous User : How much of a threat is Zika to Fairfax County and the surrounding region? If there is a positive case in Fairfax, what would that mean for the rest of the population here?

Shawn Kiernan :

The US mainland does have the Aedes species mosquitoes that could become infected with and spread Zika virus. US travelers who visit a country where Zika is found could become infected if bitten by a mosquito. CDC is not able to predict how much Zika virus would spread in the continental United States.

Many areas in the United States have the type of mosquitoes that can become infected with and spread Zika virus. However, recent chikungunya and dengue outbreaks in the continental United States suggest that Zika outbreaks in the continental United States may be relatively small and limited to a small area. To prevent the spread of diseases carried by mosquitoes, public health will maintain and improve our ability to identify and test for Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases.
We would not be surprised to see imported cases here in the Fairfax County from travelers who return from areas with Zika virus.

The United States may also have limited spread of Zika virus, similar to what occurred with chikungunya and dengue viruses, because of travelers coming into the United States.

For Zika to cause an outbreak in the continental United States:

People infected with the virus need to enter the United States.

An Aedes mosquito must bite the infected person during the relatively short time that the virus can be found in the person’s blood.

The infected mosquito must live long enough for the virus to multiply and for the mosquito to bite another person.


Anonymous User : What is the closest comparison for Zika to a previous outbreak? I know Ebola was the most recent crisis, but those two are much different I'm assuming.

Shawn Kiernan : It is correct to say that this outbreak is nothing like the Ebola outbreak due to transmission method and severity of disease. When discussing similar large outbreaks, the most notable examples are the 2014 Chikungunya Outbreak in the Americas and the West Nile Outbreak from the early 2000’s. Although the diseases are much different, they are all transmitted primarily by mosquito bites.


Anonymous User : which precautions should one take when traveling to South America, i.e., Colombia?

Shawn Kiernan :

If you are traveling to South America, you should refer to the CDC list of affected countries. The CDC updates the list of countries affected at this website so you can see all the currently affected countries: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/index.html

If you are visiting a country with Zika transmission, you should consult with your provider about this travel.

If you are currently pregnant, you should avoid travel during your pregnancy.

If you have to travel:

The best way to prevent diseases spread by mosquitoes is to protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites. The CDC recommends the following:

Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
 
Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.

Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents.

When used as directed, these insect repellents are proven safe and effective even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Insect repellents should not be used in babies younger than 2 months old. Products containing higher than 30% DEET should not be used in children, and products containing para-menthane-diol should not be used in children younger than 3 years old.

Mosquito netting can be used to cover babies younger than 2 months old in carriers, strollers, or cribs to protect them from mosquito bites.

Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used in children younger than 3 years old.

Sleep under a mosquito bed net if air conditioned or screened rooms are not available or if sleeping outdoors.


Anonymous User : Do we have the mosquitos here in Fairfax County that transmit the virus? And what risk does that pose to our community?

Joshua Smith : One potential carrier of the virus, Aedes albopictus or the Asian Tiger mosquito, is found in the county. The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is also a carrier of the virus, is rarely collected in Fairfax County.
Because we do have a potential carrier of this virus in the county, it is important to take steps to prevent these mosquitoes from breeding in our yards and to use personal protection measures to prevent mosquito bites.
The Asian Tiger mosquito prefers to lay its eggs in containers. Eliminating standing water in containers around your property (tip and toss), using approved larvicides in water that cannot be easily dumped out, and using insecticides to control adult mosquitoes in your yard are all effective measures that one could take to help prevent mosquitoes around their home. Wearing EPA-approved repellents when spending time outdoors, avoiding times of peak mosquito biting activity, and wearing long, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing will help you avoid mosquito bites. When using any insecticides or repellents, be sure to read and follow label instruction.


Anonymous User : Once you contract the Zika Virus do you have it forever? Or is it like a cold where you can get over it and therefore have no further concern about getting pregnant in the future?

Shawn Kiernan : At this time, it is believed that once you have been infected with Zika virus, you are protected from Zika virus (immune system developed antibodies).

Once a person is no longer infected, there is no risk to the baby.


Anonymous User : If a person has the Zika Virus how long do they have it for?

Shawn Kiernan :

About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus become ill (i.e., develop Zika).

The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) for Zika virus disease is not known, but is likely to be a few days to a week.

The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week.

People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika.

Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for about a week but it can be found longer in some people.

We do not know how long Zika can stay in semen once a man has been infected.



Diane : What innovative methods of communication will the health department be using to educate the public about mosquito control, and how will the department reach out to non-english speakers.

Shawn Kiernan : Mosquito prevention is a message that the Health Department promotes every year, and this year will be no different. Given the increased concerns about this virus, we will look for additional ways to communicate the important prevention steps, particularly wearing insect repellent and getting rid of standing water. We will use every communication platform available to us to spread the word--including chats like this one. We will also work with our community partners to make sure this information reaches all Fairfax County residents, including those who may not speak English as a first language.


Colin Horner : The CDC recommendations say: If you cannot easily empty water from a container, treat the water with a larvicide that will help control mosquitoes in the water. Read and follow label instructions when using a larvicide. ?If mosquitoes are flying and biting, use an insecticide to control the mosquitoes in your yard. Read and follow label instructions when using an insecticide. Can you tell us the name of an appropriate larvicide and insecticide for use in Virginia?

Joshua Smith : There are a variety of larvicides and insecticides for adult mosquitoes that are available for the consumer.
One of the available active ingredients for larvicides that you could look for is Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis. This active ingredient is very specific for mosquitoes. More information can be found about larvicides here: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/hd/westnile/wnvlarvicide.htm 

Synthetic pyrethroids, such as permethrin, are effective at controlling adult mosquitoes. More information can be found here: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/hd/westnile/permethrin.htm

When using any larvicide or insecticide, be sure to read and follow the label instructions.


Anonymous User : I read online that the mosquitoes that transmit Zika lay their eggs in small, artificial containers. Can you give some examples of the types of containers that they use in our area? What is the best way to control these mosquitoes?

Joshua Smith : Mosquitoes like the Asian Tiger mosquito will lay their eggs inside a variety of containers. Examples of these types of containers include tires, buckets, childrens' toys, corrugated downspout extensions, wheelbarrows, etc. More information can be found here: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/hd/westnile/wnveliminate.htm

The best way to control these mosquitoes is to "tip and toss" the water out to get rid of the mosquitoes. Check your yard at least once a week for any containers holding water and tip and toss it out when you find it. If you are not able to eliminate the standing water, using an approved larvicide can also help control the developing mosquitoes.


Tony Labella : My next door neighbor did not use his swimming pool last summer. We couldn't go outside because of all the mosquitoes but he refused to treat it. Can the health department do anything with abandoned swimming pools?

Joshua Smith : Private swimming pools fall under the property maintenance code which is administered by the Department of Code Compliance. Concerns regarding unmaintained or abandoned private pools should be directed to their office.

If you are being bitten by the Asian Tiger mosquito, be sure to check around your yard for containers that may be sources of the mosquito problem. Also, be sure to wear insect repellents and dress to protect yourself from mosquito bites (long, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing).


Anonymous User : If there is a local transmission of Zika Virus, what will the County's response be?

Shawn Kiernan : Currently there is no evidence of local transmission in the continental United States. According to the CDC, local transmission means that mosquitoes in the area have been infected with Zika virus and are spreading it to humans. If local transmission did occur, we would follow the CDC and Virginia Department of Health guidance for case investigation and infection control. Additional mosquito control measures might also be considered depending on the results of the investigation. 


Shawn Kiernan : Thank you for participating in this Zika chat with us. We enjoyed answering your questions and we hope the information was helpful. If we didn't get to your question or you need additional information, please check out the Zika resources on http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/hd/westnile/zika-virus.htm or call the Health Department at 703-246-2411. Have a wonderful day!