Zika and West Nile: How Serious Are They?
Joining host, Dennis McCuistion, to discuss the growing dangers and spread of West Nile and Zika and the issues associated with them are:
- Tara Smith, PhD – Associate Professor, Kent State University College of Public Health,
- Christopher Perkins, M.D. – Medical Director/ Health Authority- Dallas County Health and Human Services,
- Zachary Thompson – Director, Dallas County Health and Human Services,
- Seema Yasmin, MD – Staff writer at the Dallas Morning News and Professor of Public Health at the University of Texas at Dallas, and
- James (Jim) H. Kennedy, PhD – Regents Professor of Biological Science at the University of North Texas
West Nile virus (WNV) and Zika are infectious diseases which are primarily transmitted by infected mosquitoes. Zika can also be sexually transmitted. Contracting the Zika virus during pregnancy is becoming more problematic as it can cause congenital brain abnormalities in the fetus which we may not be aware of until the child is born.
Its symptoms are similar to other arbovirus infections such as dengue, and include fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, flu like symptoms, muscle and joint pain, malaise, and headache. In 2016, World Health Organization officials declared the virus and its associated birth defects an international health emergency.
Most people (70-80%) who become infected with West Nile virus do not develop any symptoms; although about 1 in 5 people may develop a fever with other symptoms, such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. While most recover completely, fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months. Less than 1% of those infected develop serious (fatal) neurologic illness (CDC).
There are no medications to treat either virus or vaccines to prevent either infection. And the issue is growing as more people travel to countries where they can be infected and become the natural hosts and spread the virus.
So how do you protect yourself? Our experts counsel mosquito repellent all day every day as not all mosquitoes die in winter. We need to minimize breeding and their incubation as there is always a danger. Get rid of standing water, keep windows secure with screens, and be alert to bites. Even a flu shot can help. A key is public buy-in and building awareness. Surveillance and prevention need to go hand in hand.
Tune in to get advice and wisdom about this growing concern from experts in the field who understand and deal with the issues on a daily basis.
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