At Monday night’s Covington City Council meeting, Dr. Lloyd Hofer, director of the Gwinnet, Newton, Rockdale counties Public Health Departments, shared information about the state’s campaign to educate people on prevention of the Zika virus.
The campaign, he said, urges people to use insect repellents, wear protective clothing, clean up around the yard and not let water accumulate in flowerpots, leaves, or other containers. The virus is blood-borne and is transmitted most often through mosquito bites.
Though there have been less than 20 diagnosed cases of Zika Virus Infection in Georgia, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state health authorities have launched a campaign offering advice for preventing the spread of the virus.
Georgia, Hofer told the council, is the first state to post signs at the airport warning about the virus. Retail stores at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport have been asked to carry insect repellents.
Currently, Hofer said, there is no vaccine for the Zika virus.
Even though the virus hasn’t spread far into the country, Hofer said, “it’s only a small percent, but it’s significant enough to be alarming. Diagnosis is based on recent travel history, symptoms and results of bloods tests.”
In fact, he said, a blood test is the only way to confirm the virus. Symptoms can include fever, rash and conjunctivitis. “It affects, in particular, the nervous system, one of the few viruses that do so,” Hofer said. “It can cause microcephaly (abnormally small head) and other severe brain defects. Older individuals may suffer ascending paralysis … that’s scary, especially when you know [the patient is] fully cognizant.
“Most people do get their movement back in descending order,” he said.
Though not a great deal is known about the Zika virus, which is named for the Zika Forest in Uganda where the disease is thought to have originated, it was first discovered in 1947. It is spread by bites from two types of mosquitos — the yellow fever or aedes aegypti and the Asian tiger, or aedes albopictus mosquitos, Hofer said. Both types reside in Georgia and could spread the virus.
Before 2015, Hofer said, most of the outbreaks of the virus were in Asia and Africa. Since then, the virus has been found in Central and South America, primarily Brazil.
The campaign urges people to:
• Use insect repellents, such as those containing DEET, and found in spray, lotion or cloth form;
• If working outside, reapply insect repellent throughout the day;
• Wear light colored clothing, long shirts and pants and socks;
• Sleep under a mosquito net;
• Clean up around the home and yard;
• Get rid of unneeded items that can hold water;
• Use larvacides;
• Tip and toss containers after every rain and at least once a week;
• Cover water storage containers; and
• Don’t let water accumulate in old tires, rain gutters, piles of leaves or natural holes in vegetation.
“It only takes about a capful of water to breed in,” Hofer said. “These mosquitos prefer [living off] people. They bite in evening. They also breed in drains … these things are very ubiquitous. We want to make each home in our community as safe as they can be.”
The City of Covington sprays for mosquitos in all of the city’s neighborhoods, City Manager Leigh Anne Knight told the council when asked about the spraying program. The product used is MasterLine Kontrol 4-4 for mosquitoes, flies and gnats, and each area of the city is sprayed weekly.
“Residents have had questions about what we’re spraying. It’s quite safe for humans and was recommended by the University of Georgia.
“We’re working on ways to no harm butterflies with our spray, but we do want to protect our citizens,” she said.
For information about the Zika virus and prevention, visit https://dph.georgia.gov/.