Regional Health Office offers Zika presentation to local leaders

Published 10:35 pm Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Before 2016, diseases like the Zika Virus were relatively uncommon in the United States.
But now, with summer heat in full force, Tennessee Department of Health is encouraging residents to stay vigilant from potential diseases.
The Northeast Regional Health Office hosted a Zika Virus update for county, city and municipal mayors and directors of local health departments on Wednesday.
Throughout the two-hour presentation, officials provided a four-module update on preventing and managing the Zika Virus regionally. Topics included what to expect from the virus this year, lessons from Miami, Fla., “mosquito university” and predicting the future for mosquito-borne diseases.
Dr. David Kirschke, medical director of the Northeast Tennessee Regional Health Office, said it was important to have the discussion with mosquito season upon the region.
“We’re starting to see mosquitoes again,” Kirschke said. “We’ve got people traveling back and forth to areas where the Zika virus is being transmitted — Central America, South America and the Caribbeans. If those people are coming back and infected with the Zika Virus and we have mosquitoes that are active, there can be multiple transmissions.”
Currently, Kirschke added that the state has not experienced any cases so far, but encourages members of the public to be safe when traveling for spring breaks and other vacations.
Kirschke stated that individuals traveling to areas affected by the disease should proceed with caution when returning to the area.
“If you’re traveling where there’s transmission of the disease, be sure to avoid mosquitoes for around three weeks to help deter any widespread carrying of the disease,” he said.
The Asian tiger mosquito is the primary type of mosquito locally. The director added that while the yellow fever mosquito typically carries the disease, the local mosquito has the ability to carry the disease.
The director added that the disease can be sexually transmitted and that individuals that experience symptoms should visit their local physician or health department for more information on treatment.
Leaders were able to receive a crash course lesson in how the disease was treated during a spread in Miami. Abelardo Moncayo, PhD, director of the TDH Vector-Borne Disease Program, provided information of the way the Miami-Dade area focused on spraying areas to help contain the virus.
“We want local municipalities to learn about these items so they can take the initiative if a situation arises,” Kirschke said.
TDH recently release information about the various diseases spread by mosquitoes. Diseases include West Nile Virus, Chikungunya, Zika Virus disease and many others. According to the department, Tennessee has already recorded two cases of West Nile Virus in 2017, which is unusual this early in the year.
“Many of us think of mosquitoes as minor nuisances, when in fact they are among humanity’s most serious enemies, causing numerous deaths every year around the world,” said Moncayo. “All species of mosquitoes need water to lay their eggs, so removal or treatment of standing water near homes and businesses are among the most important steps we can take to protect ourselves and our communities from the threat of mosquito-borne illnesses.”

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