A legislative panel on Thursday met to find out about how North Carolina is preparing for the growing threat of the Zika virus, which has spread to 41 states.
The Joint Legislative Emergency Management Oversight Committee heard a presentation from State Epidemiologist Dr. Megan Davies.
“In the Americas, which is where Zika is currently circulating – this includes South America, Central America, North America and the Caribbean – there are close to 200,000 cases, based on clinical presentation and epidemiology,” Davies said. “Almost 6,000 of those have been laboratory confirmed. Clearly in these parts of the world the resources to confirm every case with a laboratory is not there, so it’s really just a subset that have the laboratory testing, but it’s affecting a lot of people.”
Most people infected with Zika will not even know it because no symptoms will be present, but some people will suffer fever, rashes, joint pain or conjunctivitis.
The usual incubation timeline for the virus is anywhere from a few days to a week.
Those who receive the virus once likely will not be susceptible to the infection again.
Davies’ presentation to the committee comes on the heels of Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposed Health and Human Services budget, which calls for $750,000 to be appropriated to the state’s effort to fight the Zika virus through:
- Health care provider guidance
- Laboratory testing
- Mosquito surveillance
State health leaders also just returned from the Zika Action Plan Summit hosted in Atlanta by the Centers for Disease Control, where defense strategies were discussed as mosquito season begins.
As of today there have been nine confirmed cases of Zika virus in North Carolina, all of which have been related to people traveling to areas where outbreaks have occurred.
There have been no cases reported of the Zika virus being transferred from person to person in the state, although 294 people have been evaluated for Zika virus here.
The most cases have been reported in Florida, where 78 cases have been identified, with New York coming in second with 55 cases and Texas picking up third with 27.
Currently only South Carolina, New Mexico, Idaho, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Wisconsin, Vermont and Alaska have no reported cases of Zika virus.
Nationwide there are about 350 cases associated with travel to areas with the virus and no locally acquired cases, save for seven cases where the virus was transmitted sexually from a male sexual partner.
There are two types of mosquitos that are known to be able to carry the Zika Virus: the Aedes aegypti and the Aedes albopictus, more commonly referred to as the Yellow Fever Mosquito and Asian Tiger Mosquito.
While the distribution of the aegypti mosquito is just south of North Carolina, the CDC says that the range of the mosquitos can reach up into Pennsylvania and the albopictus mosquito’s range reaches all the way into Maine and its distribution covers up to New Jersey.
The Zika virus is especially dangerous for pregnant women due to the possibility of the virus transferring to their child congenitally or during childbirth.
Cases of microcephaly in 35 Brazilian infants in 2015 were correlated to congenital Zika infections acquired from the mother during pregnancy, but it is unclear if children infected close to or during birth could suffer the same defects.
Microcephaly is a condition in which a child’s head is smaller than expected. It can be tied to a host of neurological issues.
The CDC is still advising mothers to continue breastfeeding children, citing no known cases of transference from a mother to a breastfed child.
Across the nation there are a reported 32 cases of pregnant women contracting the virus and another 37 reported cases in the U.S. territories of American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
There has been one reported case of Guillain-Barré syndrome in both the U.S. and the territories, which is linked to the Zika Virus. Guillain-Barré syndrome is “an uncommon sickness of the nervous system in which a person’s own immune system damages the nerve cells, causing muscle weakness, and sometimes, paralysis,” according to the CDC.
A small portion of those who become infected with Zika will develop Guillain-Barré.
The Brazil Ministry of Health first reported the link between the two following the Zika outbreak there.