Zika Virus can lead to birth defects

Published 12:11 am Saturday, March 12, 2016

No cases reported locally, St. John mosquitoes can carry virus

EDGARD — St. John the Baptist Parish residents should be vigilant this mosquito season as the River Parishes could be susceptible to mosquitoes carrying the Zika Virus, local officials said.

The World Health Organization, which concluded a Zika research and development meeting this week, said Zika has triggered outbreaks in 41 countries, leading to confirmed cases linking Zika to babies with birth defects in Brazil and French Polynesia.

Zika has been linked to microcephaly, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says microcephaly is a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age.

Babies with microcephaly often have smaller brains that might not have developed properly. The Zika Virus can be spread from a woman to her child if she is infected while pregnant. Pregnant women are advised to delay travel plans to places with the Zika Virus.

St. John the Baptist Parish officials said mosquitoes that can carry Zika do live in the River Region.

Steven Pavlovich, of St. John Mosquito Control, said the Zika Virus is different from others that can be transmitted by mosquitoes, because humans are not dead end hosts.

“With the Zika Virus, humans, for a five- to seven-day period, are able to transmit the disease,” he said. “That’s the concern if someone who is infected comes back within that period. They have a chance of spreading it to another mosquito if bitten, then potentially to another human. It’s an exotic disease that is being brought back to the United States through travels.”

Pavlovich told St. John the Baptist Parish Council members during the board’s meeting this week in Edgard that there have been no cases the virus reported in St. John Parish.

He did say three possible cases have been reported in Louisiana.

Two types of container mosquitoes, the Asian Tiger Mosquito and Yellow Fever Mosquito are common in the Greater New Orleans area and are capable of transmitting the disease, Pavlovich said.

“Zika threat right now is low, but this is an opportunity for people to be aware of it,” he said.

“Because it’s spread by container mosquitoes, we are encouraging people to remove containers from around their yards. These mosquitoes will be in people’s backyards and don’t fly very far, generally their flight range is around 500 feet.”

Mosquitoes are most prevalent in St. John Parish in May, but can be seen throughout the year.

Pavlovich provided Council members and those who attended the meeting this week with a mosquito prevention pamphlet that can be picked up by local residents at Percy Hebert Building in LaPlace.

Division B Councilwoman at Large Jaclyn Hotard said some places that could collect water and attract mosquitoes mentioned in the pamphlet were not on her radar.

“Like standing water in low grassy areas such as tire tracts,” she said. “Another one was water filled tree holes. I never thought about that. It said you need to check branches, as well as the trunk of the tree, for holes and fill them with sand or cement.

“I think it’s incumbent of us to be mindful of the potential threat that is out there. It’s better to protect yourself from something than not protect yourself. Though we don’t have any cases in St. John, it’s better to take all of the safety measures and take all the precautions.”

Pavlovich said the symptoms of the Zika Virus are mild and include headache, rash, joint pain and occasional redness of the eyes.

“A lot of times people won’t know that they even have the disease, only one in five would have any symptoms,” he said.

“Zika Virus is not generally thought to be something we have to worry about for fatality or mortality. The concern is that the Zika Virus potentially has a link with something called microcephaly.”