Zika Still Not a Threat to Most Nebraskans
August 23rd, 2016
Last week, Nebraska health officials said six people in the state had contracted the zika virus. All of those people were in zika-affected countries when they became infected with the virus. But the threat of zika to Nebraskans remains relatively low.
Â It seems you canâ€™t watch the news or read a paper without hearing the latest information about the zika virus. Despite the widespread zika coverage, though, Dr. Ali Khan, the dean of the University of Nebraska Medical Centerâ€™s College of Public Health said most people really have nothing to worry about.
Dr. Khan said, â€œThereâ€™s no doubt that if youâ€™re pregnant, zika poses a risk; especially in Florida right now and certain parts of the gulf coast. But I need to be clear zika is not going to be an epidemic in the United States. Weâ€™ve had about 2000 people come into the United States who were infected in South America, so when they show up in the states itâ€™s easier to understand how they might infect a mosquito that might infect another person. But this is not an epidemic disease in the United States and especially not in Nebraska.â€
New York and Florida are the two states with the most zika-infected people returning home after traveling abroad to countries with current zika epidemics.
Dr. Khan said while zika wonâ€™t be an epidemic in the U.S., precautions to prevent the disease here still needs to be taken.
Dr. Khan said, â€œEvery case in a pregnant woman is a tragedy, without a doubt. Thatâ€™s why itâ€™s important to get a handle quickly on the local cases that weâ€™re seeing in Florida and be ready for similar cases that may occur across the gulf coast and Texas as weâ€™ve seen with other viruses caused by the exact same mosquito.â€
The type of mosquito that carries zika isnâ€™t common in Nebraska. To date, only one has been found in the state. But being bitten by an infected mosquito isnâ€™t the only way to contract the virus.
â€œThe sexually transmitted side of zika is one other way the disease can spread, and this is of concern for a major reason because through sexual transmission, you can infect a woman who is pregnant and therefore cause disease in a newborn,â€ Dr. Khan said.
Khan said thereâ€™s another tragedy involving zika; even though we knew the virus was coming to the U.S., Congress didnâ€™t provide the necessary funding to the Center for Disease Control, the National Institute of Health, nor state and local health departments to combat zika effectively.
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