Idaho mosquito abatement leaders eye Zika virus

Posted at 6:52 PM, Feb 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-17 21:03:19-05

With the development of a vaccine underway for the Zika virus, health experts are doing everything they can to educate the public.

As new discoveries are being made on this usually dormant virus, mosquito abatement districts across the nation, and here in Idaho, are preparing for Spring.

The Ada County Mosquito Abatement District field operations manager, Desiree Keeney, just got back from a national conference. At the annual American Mosquito Control Association's meeting, a very timely issue was brought to the forefront: The Zika virus. The virus is a mosquito borne illness.

In Idaho, there are about 52 confirmed mosquito species, according to Keeney. She says the species that carries the disease has never been found in Idaho.

"The vector isn't here to transmit in that sense from a mosquito side," Keeney says. "They shouldn't have huge concerns in Idaho about it at this time."

The most logical scenario that would introduce the mosquito to Idaho would be from Californians moving to the Gem state. While it's unlikely the tropical mosquito would survive, there is a chance the species could adapt.

Still, West Nile Virus carrying mosquitoes are common in Idaho. The abatement districts across the state will continue on with their work to combat disease, which includes identifying and monitoring mosquito populations.

As we head into Spring, experts want you to keep this in mind.

"Public education is very important. These are container breeding mosquitoes [Zika and WNV carrying mosquitoes], which are in back yards like pots, plants, buckets and little wheel barrels and tires," Keeney says. "So, if the public really wants to be proactive, they should dump water in their own backyards."

Mosquito abatement district leaders work closely with district health departments who help educate the public.

At the Central District Health Department in Boise, they have been receiving 2-3 calls a day.

Now with new information on another way the Zika virus can spread, health officials caution the public to take necessary precautions to avoid possible birth defects.

"The transmission through sex is new to us because West Nile Virus doesn't do that, other viruses that are mosquito borne don't typically transmit that way," says Sarah Correll, an epidemiologist for CDHD.

If you have been traveling and return home feeling achy, have a fever or are fatigued, similar to WNV symptoms, you're urged to contact your physician immediately.

Eighty-percent of people who contract the Zika virus will experience no symptoms. Out of the other 20 percent, most will have mild to moderate symptoms of which most will recover fairly quickly from.

For couples living in Idaho with plans to get pregnant soon, it's advised the man should avoid travel all together.

Women with plans to get pregnant are okay to travel but should wait two weeks once they're home before trying again.

It is advised that pregnant women do not travel to areas known to have the Zika virus.