Jacksonville 904 April/May/June 2017 : Page 25

“Even the smallest amount of standing water could grow hundreds of mosquito eggs,” says Dr. Patrick Duff of the division of internal fetal medi-cine at the University of Florida’s department of OBGYN. In June of last year, the first travel-related case of the Zika virus was reported in Duval County, result-ing in its addition to the list of counties under a pub-lic health emergency. A “drain and cover” message (drain any standing water, cover doors and windows with screens) was the hold music for 630-CITY, Jacksonville’s public hotline for city-related matters, heard by more than 60,000 callers per week. Zika in-formation was included with 360,000 JEA utility bills. Informational signage was placed on JTA buses and at highway rest stops. By November 2016, more than 1,100 infections were reported in the state, though mosquitoes carry-ing the virus were only ever found in Miami’s Wyn-wood neighborhood and Miami Beach. Most infections in Northeast Florida were international travel-related. This year, a total of 31 cases of the virus have been reported in the state so far. While the Department of Health (DOH) in Duval reports no cases of Zika in 2017, the organization continues to take measures to protect the region against the disease. “DOH-Duval continues to provide guidance, or-ganize testing for pregnant women and investigate potential cases,” says Alison A. Hewitt, DOH public information specialist. The DOH plans to develop various public infor-mation campaigns trying to reach high risk and vul-nerable areas, going the extra step by offering information in various languages to ensure everyone understands the available information. The depart-ment is also working with healthcare professionals in the area, implementing an outreach program that monitors and addresses questions about Zika from the public. Making the disease even more dan-gerous, mosquitoes infected with Zika are like “stealth bombers,” says Dr. Duff. “The mosquito that spreads this virus is an amazing little pest. It tends to hang out under leaves of foliage in-stead of on top, which makes it diffi-cult to spray because of the canopy the leaves provide. Most mosquitoes tend to be out in the morning hours or dusk, but this one is out all of the time.” Men and women can spread the virus through sexual contact and blood transfusions, while mothers can also pass along the disease to unborn chil-dren if infected while pregnant. Ac-cording to the CDC, Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a birth de-fect of the brain called microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects. Microcephaly causes severe deformity upon birth, along with other issues. Zika presents a host of dangers to an unborn child, causing little to no symptoms to those infected. “The real issue [with Zika] is the rare adult [for whom the virus causes] Guillain-Barre syndrome or the adult who gets pregnant and then it’s a dif-ferent ball game,” says Duff. Guillain-Barre is a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the peripheral nervous system, and research has The mosquito that spreads this virus is an amazing little pest. It tends to hang out under leaves of foliage in-stead of on top of the leaves which makes it difficult to spray because of the canopy of the leaves DR. PATRICK DUFF, University of Florida “ Look Out Below! Earlier this month a tree-removal truck was up-ended, causing the 32-ton crane it was carrying to crash into two homes on Jacksonville’s Westside. Ap-parently the part of the tree that the company was try-ing to remove was too heavy for the crane. Thankfully no one was injured. Few people realize the constant dangers that tree care industries present to its workers. It’s usually fire-fighters, members of the armed forces and police offi-cers who generally earn the label of hero for their dangerous duties. “We’re probably the fourth or fifth as the most dangerous careers,” says Peter Gersten-berger, senior advisor to safety compliance for the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA). In 2016, TCIA reported 153 total tree care-related occupational incidents in the U.S., of which 92 were fatal. Within the industry there are three types of acci-dent causations known as the Big Three— fall, struck-by and electrical contact incidents. There were 26 fall fatalities in 2016, 26 struck-by fatalities, and 23 electric contact fatalities. “It’s safe, if you know how to do it,” says Gerstenberger. tcia.org z Tree care can be one dangerous business Q BY REGGIE DURANT shown that it is strongly associated with Zika. Only a small portion of those infected get the syndrome, however. Despite doctors urging people to be careful and avoid travel to places where the disease is prevalent, Aftab cautions against overreaction. “Zika spread in the U.S. has not reached epi-demic proportions,” she says. “While people should not panic, they should get educated about this dis-ease.” Aftab also urges anyone who could have been infected to practice safe sex so as not to unknowingly spread the disease to a partner. “The interesting thing is that only 25 percent of people have obvious symptoms. 75-80 percent of people are actually asymptomatic,” Duff says. For those who do exhibit symptoms, the signs are a low grade fever, conjunctivitis, arthralgias, myalgias achi-ness in the muscles and a characteristic skin rash that looks something like the measles. “There basically are three different types of tests to be done,” Duff says. “So for patients who are being seen fairly soon after exposure—mainly within the first week or two—the best test is the PCR test which basically detects certain proteins in the virus through both blood and urine. The virus disappears from the blood in five to seven days but stays in urine up to two weeks.” The California Department of Public Health released an emergency warning on March 31, saying that two invasive species of mosquito, which are known to carry Zika, dengue and yellow fever, have been found in ten California counties. Hot zones for California Zika appear to be areas known for heavy tech sector immigration such as Silicon Valley and Silicon Beach. The two species are now common in Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Asia. So far the only documented cases of viral transmission from a mosquito to a human took place in South Florida and Brownsville, Texas last year. The first human experimental Zika vaccine test-ing began in Houston earlier this spring, and is scheduled to begin in Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which developed the vaccine, are looking to have enrolled up to 2,000 vol-unteer test subjects across the country by June. Initial results will not be available until late 2017, and a vaccine is at least two years away. S P R I N G 2 01 7 — 2 5

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