Alabama Department of Public Health staying alert amidst Zika outbreaks

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Zika is on the minds of a lot of people these days – especially on the minds of those in Florida.

Florida Governor, Rick Scott, says there are 10 new infections of the Zika virus likely transmitted by mosquitoes, bringing the latest total in the state to 14. The new cases are clustered in the same square-mile neighborhood in Miami-Dade County identified last week.

Florida health officials said in a news release Monday they believe active transmissions of Zika are occurring only in that area.

But what is Zika? It’s a question that many are asking since knowing there is no vaccine or medicine for the virus.

Dr. Scott Harris, Assistant State Health Officer with the Alabama Department of Public Health, says it’s been on the radar for a while. “Zika is a virus that was recognized first in the 1940’s in Africa as something that affected monkeys, but soon thereafter it became clear that it could infect humans,” said Harris.

Dr. Harris says the illness caused a fever and rash that would last about a week, but was nothing serious – so they thought. That’s when they realized the risk Zika poses to unborn babies. But what about the concern in Alabama?

“We’ve had about 15 cases in Alabama from people who acquired Zika when they were traveling out of the country, but came back here and were diagnosed here,” said Harris.

Harris explains there are no signs of any local transmission of Zika within Alabama; it’s all from people traveling out of the country and being bitten by a mosquito in that country.

Although, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. “Each time one of those are found in Alabama, we actually send an environmentalist from the health department out into that persons home to do an inspection of their property and their neighborhood to look for areas where mosquitoes could be breeding,” said Harris.

If you do travel in these affected areas, Harris says it’s imperative to use insect repellent with the active ingredient, DEET and wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.