MM: Aedes Aegypti mosquito species, carriers of both dengue and Zika, are already present in the U.S. Does this increase the risk of Zika spreading throughout the U.S.?
CDC: The U.S. mainland does have the Aedes species mosquitoes that could become infected with and spread Zika virus. U.S. travelers who visit a country where Zika is found could become infected if bitten by a mosquito. With the recent outbreaks, the number of Zika virus disease cases among travelers visiting or returning to the U.S. will likely increase. These imported cases might result in local spread of the virus in some areas of the U.S. CDC has been monitoring these outbreaks closely and is prepared to address cases imported into the U.S. and cases transmitted locally.
MM: How widespread would an outbreak of Zika virus be in the U.S.?
CDC: For Zika to cause an outbreak in the continental U.S.:
- People infected with the virus need to enter the U.S.
- 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.
CDC is not able to predict how much Zika virus would spread in the continental U.S. However, recent chikungunya and dengue outbreaks in the continental U.S. suggest that Zika outbreaks in the continental U.S. may be relatively small and focal. Given this, it is important that we maintain and improve our ability to identify and test for Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases. We would not be surprised to see additional imported cases here in the U.S. from travelers who return from areas where Zika virus is circulating. It is also possible, as a result of imported cases, that we may see some limited local transmission of Zika virus in some parts of the continental U.S., similar to what occurred with chikungunya and dengue viruses.
MM: There have been cases of Zika reported in several states. quickly do you predict this trend to increase across the U.S?
CDC: In December 2015, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, reported its first confirmed locally transmitted Zika virus case. Cases of local transmission have recently been confirmed in two other U.S. territories, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa. Locally transmitted Zika virus has not been reported in the continental U.S., but cases of Zika have been reported in returning travelers. With the recent outbreaks in the Americas, the number of Zika cases among travelers visiting or returning to the U.S. will likely increase. These imported cases may result in local spread of the virus in some areas of the U.S.
MM: How will this outbreak affect college students who might visit the Caribbean, Mexico and Central/South America over spring break?
CDC: Anyone who lives in or travels to an area where Zika virus is found and has not already been infected with Zika virus can get it from mosquito bites.
MM: Women have been the central focus of being affected by Zika. Does this affect men at all? If so, how?
CDC: About one in five people infected with Zika virus become sick. The sickness 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.
MM: What treatments are available to those who have already contracted Zika?
CDC: There is no vaccine to prevent or treat Zika virus infections.
To help counter the symptoms:
- Get plenty of rest.
- Drink fluids to prevent dehydration.
- Take medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®) to reduce fever and pain.
- Do not take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
- If you are taking medicine for another medical condition, talk to your healthcare provider before taking additional medication.
MM: What preventive measures has CDC implemented to control the situation?
What is CDC doing about Zika?
CDC: CDC has been aware of Zika for some time and has been preparing for its possible introduction into the U.S. Laboratories in many countries, including the U.S., have been trained to test for chikungunya and dengue. These skills have prepared these laboratories for Zika testing.
CDC is working with international public health partners and with state health departments to
- Alert healthcare providers and the public about Zika.
- Post travel notices and other travel-related guidance.
- Provide state health laboratories with diagnostic tests.
- Detect and report cases, which will help prevent further spread.
The arrival of Zika in the Americas demonstrates the risks posed by this and other exotic viruses. CDC’s health security plans are designed to effectively monitor for disease, equip diagnostic laboratories and support mosquito control programs both in the U.S. and around the world.