Just because someone isn’t showing symptoms doesn’t mean there isn’t something there. Plattsburgh State Student Health and Counseling Center Director Kathleen Camelo said 1 in 5 people who have Zika show symptoms.
Zika is spread by mosquito bites from mosquitoes of the Aedes species. It can also be spread through sexual activity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis — also known as pink eye — and the virus is almost never fatal.
“Zika virus can be spread during sex by a man infected with Zika to his partners,” the CDC reported on its website. “We do not know if a woman can spread Zika to her sex partners.”
There are currently no reported cases of Zika in Clinton County. However, the New York City Department of Health reported that there were 20 cases of Zika in the state, two of whom were pregnant women.
“Two of the 20 cases were pregnant women; all cases contracted Zika while visiting other countries, and all patients have recovered,” the health department reported.
However, the Clinton County Health Department said in a fax to the PSUC student health center that Zika has not been spread by mosquitoes in the continental 48 states.
“As of March 16, 2016, the U.S. had reported a total of “258 travel-associated Zika cases to the CDC,” the health department said.
The Aedes species of mosquito has been known to carry yellow fever, dengue fever and chikungunya, the New York Times reported in a video.
“The illness is usually mild, with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito,” the CDC reported on its website. “People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika.”
The Times reported in the aforementioned video that Brazilian doctors have attempted to link Zika to Guillian-Barre syndrome, a condition that can cause “temporary paralysis in patients of all ages, but causation has not been proven.”
“The CDC is investigating the link between Zika and Guillian-Barre syndrome,” the Clinton County Health Department said in a fax to the PSUC health center.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office announced a six-point Zika action plan on its website.
In an effort to “eliminate mosquito breeding sites,” Cuomo authorized the distribution of 100,000 starter kits of larvicide tablets — also known as “mosquito dunks” — for residents and business owners to use in standing water, where mosquitoes are known to breed. These kits will also be given out to cities, villages and towns to assist local mosquito control days.
The state will also monitor Zika prevalence in Aedes mosquitoes by testing 60,000 of them per month at Albany’s Wadsworth Laboratory, a facility the governor’s website notes is “already a national leader in Zika testing.”
Gov. Cuomo and his staff will make 20,000 Zika protection kits available to pregnant women across the state. These kits consist of an informational pamphlet about Zika, condoms, insect repellent and larvicide tablets.
Information about other measures, such as the formation of rapid-response teams that will be dispatched when a case is confirmed, “emergency regulations requiring local Zika control plans” and an “aggressive public awareness campaign” can be found on the state’s website.
Although it is not yet confirmed, she said a link between Zika and microcephaly, a condition that results in infants having abnormally small heads and brain defects, is “highly likely.” She said only one in five people who have Zika show symptoms of the virus.
The CDC reported that microcephaly can be linked to seizures, developmental delays, intellectual disability, movement and balance problems, difficulty eating or swallowing, hearing loss and vision problems. The CDC said that these problems can range in severity but are often lifelong.
The CDC said babies with severe microcephaly can have these problems in greater severity than babies with milder microcephaly.
“Severe microcephaly can also be life-threatening,” the CDC reported. “Because it is difficult to predict at birth what problems a baby will have from microcephaly, babies with microcephaly often need close follow-up through regular check-ups with a healthcare provider to monitor their growth and development.”
The virus began spread in 2013, but Camelo said it can be difficult for people to take action against something of which they aren’t aware.
“Until you start seeing a trend, you don’t really know what you’re looking for,” Camelo said.
She said the change that brought Zika awareness to the forefront is its very possible link to microcephaly.
“It (Zika) appears to be producing very severe microcephaly, but I’m not sure,” Camelo said.
She also said that the severity of microcephaly among babies whose mothers catch Zika might depend on how far along the mother would be when Zika is contracted.
However, for men and women who aren’t pregnant, Zika may not be detrimental. One PSUC student, after weighing her options, decided traveling to another country for spring break fun was worth the risk.
After a recent trip to the Dominican Republic, where Zika is prevalent, PSUC public relations major Carissa Root said she was certainly concerned about contracting Zika virus, so she did her research.
While on vacation, after two mosquito bites, she had no symptoms. She said, however, that anyone traveling to areas where Zika is prevalent should certainly research the risks and use their best judgment.
The CDC website said some people often don’t realize they have been infected, but once they are, they are protected from future infections.
Camelo said even though no one in the county has been diagnosed, the college is keeping a watchful eye. The health center does not currently offer Zika testing for students, but it is possible for PSUC to begin to do so by contacting the Clinton County Health Department and arrange testing through the state health department’s Wadsworth Laboratory in Albany.
“If we have a suspicious case, if we have someone (who) we think is pregnant, we would contact our local health department that would assist us in doing the testing,” she said.
Email Tim Lyman at firstname.lastname@example.org