Kentucky asking public to take steps to protect state from Zika virus
It's the start of the mosquito season in Kentucky, and the state is taking steps to ensure that the Zika virus does not become a serious problem here.
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- It's the start of the mosquito season in Kentucky, and the state is launching an effort to prevent the Zika virus from becoming a problem here.
At a news conference Monday at Kentucky State University's Research Farm, state officials said they are doing what they can, but cooperation from the public is the key to controlling the Zika virus in Kentucky.
“The World Health Organization has declared Zika an international health threat,” said Health and Family Services Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson.
Glisson says, so far, there have been just six confirmed Zika cases in Kentucky, all in people who have traveled to infected areas of central and South America.
The virus has not been found in mosquitoes here, and to keep it that way, health experts are warning travelers.
“If you plan to visit a country where Zika is circulating, protect yourself,” said Dr. Ardis Hoven of the Kentucky Dept. for Public Health.
The Centers for Disease Control and Kentucky Dept. for Public Health advise travelers to take measures to protect themselves and their families:
- Women who are pregnant should not travel to areas with Zika. Pregnant women who must travel to one of these areas for business or family emergencies should talk to their doctor or other healthcare professional first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites.
- Women trying to become pregnant should consult with their healthcare professional before traveling to these areas and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip.
- Pregnant women should avoid sexual contact with any man who has recently returned from areas with Zika transmission or consistently and correctly use condoms with each sexual encounter for the duration of the pregnancy.
- Men who develop symptoms during or after travel to Zika-affected areas should wear condoms for six months or consider abstaining from sexual activity.
- Men who travel to a Zika-affected area and do not develop any symptoms within two weeks of travel should wear condoms for 8 weeks after departure from Zika-affected area. The duration of Zika virus being present in semen after infection is not presently known.
Protect yourself abroad and at home by using repellent and wearing light-colored, long-sleeved clothing.
“If everyone does this, it greatly reduces the risk of Zika ever getting into Kentucky's mosquito population,” she said.
Still, leading mosquito expert Grayson Brown of the University of Kentucky says there's a 50-50 chance the virus will show up in Kentucky mosquitoes.
He says urban areas such as Louisville are most at risk because of the larger populations, and because there are more places to hold standing water, where the insects breed.
“You have to have somebody there that's carrying the virus. And then you have to have enough mosquitoes so that they can feed on that person, and some of them survive to transmit the disease,” Brown said.
Pregnant woman are most at risk because the virus is known to cause birth defects.
“The challenge right now is we're just learning what this virus can do and what illness it can cause,” Hoven said.
For now, the focus is prevention and public awareness with the Fight the Bite Day and Night campaign.
“We need every Kentuckian to be a part of this effort,” said Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles.
“Citizens can help by eliminating areas of standing water that could serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes – puddles, old tires, buckets, and any household items that potentially could fill with water if left outside. With your help, we can help minimize the spread of the Zika virus across the Commonwealth.”
“The best form of protection is prevention, not cleanup,” Hoven said.
Officials say the most high-risk months in Kentucky are late-June to early-September.
Additional facts and information specifically related to Zika virus can be found online at http://www.cdc.gov/zika/index.html
Copyright 2016 by WDRB News. All rights reserved.