East Hawaii News

U.S. Surgeon General on Zika: What Should You Know?

May 12, 2016, 3:14 PM HST
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An Aedes aegypti mosquito is pictured here. The mosquito is one of two in Hawai'i known to spread several mosquito born viruses. Hawai'i Department of Health photo.

An Aedes aegypti mosquito is pictured here. The mosquito is one of two in Hawai’i known to spread several mosquito born viruses. Hawai’i Department of Health photo.

United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released information on Thursday on what the public should know about the Zika virus.

Much like the dengue fever and chikungunya viruses, the Zika virus is spread mainly through mosquito bites. The same mosquitoes are known to transmit all three viruses.

Dr. Murthy notes that while most people have no symptoms when they are infected with Zika, it’s possible that mild illness can occur. Potentially the most alarming aspect of the disease is the link between Zika infection during pregnancy and serious birth defects and other pregnancy outcomes.

In addition, Dr. Murthy notes that that infection could have neurological impacts in some people infected with the disease, like Guillain-Barré syndrome, and that it has been learned that it can also be spread from a man to his sexual partners.

The White House is closely tracking and responding to outbreaks of the virus across the Americas, according to Dr. Murthy, who also says that there haven’t been any known Zika transmission by mosquitoes in the continental United States.

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Areas like Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa have seen transmission of the disease by mosquitoes. Areas of Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands have also had cases reported.

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“The federal government is also working closely with the states and private partners to ensure that adequate testing capacity is available so that anyone who may be infected — especially pregnant women — can find out quickly and take steps to prevent further spread of Zika,” Dr. Murthy said in a statement. “We are also working with states to help them refine and implement Zika preparedness and response plans for their jurisdictions.”

Dr. Murthy also addressed proposed funding requested by President Barack Obama to assist in the prevention, detection, and treatment of the virus.

“It is my hope that Congress will act quickly to provide funding so we can protect the American people from the spread of Zika,” he said.

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