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.
It seems you can’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 Center’s College of Public Health said most people really have nothing to worry about.
Dr. Khan said, “There’s no doubt that if you’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. We’ve had about 2000 people come into the United States who were infected in South America, so when they show up in the states it’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.”
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 won’t be an epidemic in the U.S., precautions to prevent the disease here still needs to be taken.
Dr. Khan said, “Every case in a pregnant woman is a tragedy, without a doubt. That’s why it’s important to get a handle quickly on the local cases that we’re seeing in Florida and be ready for similar cases that may occur across the gulf coast and Texas as we’ve seen with other viruses caused by the exact same mosquito.”
The type of mosquito that carries zika isn’t common in Nebraska. To date, only one has been found in the state. But being bitten by an infected mosquito isn’t the only way to contract the virus.
“The 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,” Dr. Khan said.
Khan said there’s another tragedy involving zika; even though we knew the virus was coming to the U.S., Congress didn’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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