Alabama Health Department investigating ‘several cases’ of Zika, West Nile Virus

Photo: MGN Online

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Alabama Department of Public Health wants everyone to guard themselves against mosquitoes. Officials say they are investigating several cases of Zika and West Nile virus in Alabama residents.

During a news conference on Monday, assistant professor in UAB’s Division of Infectious Diseases, Jodie Dionne-Odom confirmed that three Alabama residents contracted the virus while traveling out of the country this year.

AL.com reports one of those cases involves a Shelby County resident. The Shelby County Health Department has not responded to requests for comment from WHNT about the case.

“There has been no evidence to date in 2018, in 2017 and 2016 of mosquitos in Alabama carrying this virus,” said Dionne-Odom. “The people who have been identified in our state so far have imported this virus from other places where we know the Zika virus exists.”

“Mosquitoes can transmit viruses when they bite, causing illnesses that range from mild to severe or even fatal,” according to Sherri Davidson, interim state epidemiologist.

Infection with the Zika virus causes only mild symptoms in the majority of the cases, but the biggest risk is to pregnant women. Zika is now known to cause birth defects and other poor pregnancy-related outcomes if infection occurs during pregnancy.

To date in Alabama, the Zika virus has only been identified in individuals known to have traveled to areas where Zika is known to be endemic. There has been no local transmission.

Dr. Dee Jones, state public health veterinarian, says, “The best way to avoid getting a disease from a mosquito is to reduce the risk of being bitten.” You can help keep mosquitoes off of your skin and out of your yard by following these recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  •    When going outdoors, use EPA-registered repellents containing 20 percent DEET on skin or permethrin on clothes. Follow label instructions carefully when using any repellent. Repellents should not be used on infants less than 2 months old.
  •    Wear loose-fitting long sleeves and long pants.
  •    Install or repair screens on windows and doors. Use air-conditioning, if available.
  •    Empty standing water from items outside homes such as flowerpots, buckets, old tires and children’s pools.
  •    Clean clogged gutters and clear drainage ditches and pipes of debris.

Public health environmentalists often conduct courtesy yard inspections in neighborhoods to help educate the public on mosquito control around the home and mosquito bite prevention.

If you would like to learn more, check out the resources below.

The Alabama Department of Public Health provided the preceding information to WHNT News 19.