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Michigan Health Workers Are Already Preparing for Zika

Photo credit: James Gathany - PHIL, CDC
Photo credit: James Gathany – PHIL, CDC

The first case of the Zika virus has been confirmed in Michigan, and health officials are doing their best to keep residents from freaking out.

Despite the fact that Zika is a tropical disease transmitted by mosquitos in warmer climates, the prevalence of Zika in Central and South America has made it more likely that American travelers might carry the virus back into the snow-covered States. According to the Detroit Free Press, health officials in Michigan have made it clear that Zika isn’t expected to take hold in the state because this northern region lacks the specific type of mosquitoes — the Aedes aegypti species — that are “carrier mosquitoes” for Zika.

The nearby states of Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio have all confirmed cases of Zika within their states as well but it’s clear in each case that the afflicted individuals contracted the virus after traveling to “areas where the virus is endemic or native.”

Up until recently, those “areas” were limited to tropical regions in Central and South America, as well as in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

But now that virus has begun spreading quickly, health officials believe that the Southern portion of the U.S. is at risk as more Aedes aegypti mosquitoes move in and make themselves at home.

The virus has also been linked to the species Aedes albopictus — although certainly not to the same extent as Aedes aegypti — but this second species has been known to reside farther north, possibly even as far as Ohio or Indiana.

If that’s the case, Michigan may be at risk of seeing an epidemic break out, too. Health workers in Oakland County have already begun preparing to fight off the disease, despite state officials’ assurances that there’s no major risk at the moment.

According to MLive, the county has already committed part of its budget to monitoring Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases in residents. The county health division will be setting up specialized mosquito traps in June, as well, so that specimens can be tested extensively in labs.

Health care centers are taking proactive measures to educate their communities about the disease itself, about the risks of contracting Zika, and about how to prevent it. Not only are residents encouraged to learn more about the virus, but health care workers are bolstering their own preventative measures. Something as small as an accidental needlestick — which occurs to around half of all nurses at least once in their careers — can make a huge difference in containment of a virus.

Michigan might not be at high risk for a Zika epidemic, but it’s always better to err on the side of caution.

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