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Zika Virus Scholars Visit USF

Wikimedia Commons
Aedes aegypti, the species of mosquito that most commonly carries Zika

Summer is peak mosquito season, and that means greater concern about the Zika virus.

On Thursday, representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and the Florida Department of Health gave updated information about the virus to a group of scholars at the University of South Florida College of Public Health. 

Sonja Rasmussen, a CDC official, said there many ways that Floridians can prevent the spread of Zika.

“Wear long sleeves and long pants," Rasmussen said. "Stay and sleep in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens. To prevent sexual transmission, of course, condoms or abstinence.”

The CDC also recommends that pregnant women who live in or have traveled to Zika risk areas be tested for the virus. If a woman shows symptoms, even if she hasn’t traveled, the CDC suggests testing at the first prenatal visit and again during the second trimester. 

Rasmussen also said homeowners should try to reduce the amount of standing water on their property so that mosquitos have fewer places to breed.

Carina Blackmore, an environmental epidemiologist with the state, said that many communities in the U.S. don’t practice effective mosquito control, especially for the species that most often carries the Zika virus.

“It's very labor-intensive, very difficult. These are very sneaky mosquitos that live very close to people. Preferably, if they can, in your home. In the U.S., because of air conditioning and screens, they generally live right around your home.”

Blackmore said that the closeness to humans makes it harder for mosquito control districts to access important breeding areas. 

On Wednesday, two bills aimed at strengthening mosquito control continued their way through committees in the House and Senate. The bills would re-authorize the “Strengthening Mosquito Abatement for Safety and Health Act” (SMASH Act) of 2004, which gives $100 million per year to mosquito control efforts and public health labs.

Florida was one of the states hit hardest by Zika last year, with about 1,500 cases.

Carson graduated from the University of South Florida in 2011 with B.A. degrees in English and international studies, and earned a master's degree in journalism from New York University in 2017. Prior to coming to San Antonio, she worked as a news intern for WUSF Public Media. She's also contributed print stories to Ms. Magazine, Chronogram, Souciant, and Bedford+Bowery, among others.
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