Why The Zika Virus May Spread In Southern US States This Spring

Come springtime, pregnant women in southern states like the Carolinas may want to be extra cautious about getting bitten by a mosquito. Health experts are warning the Zika virus will likely spread to the southern US by this spring. More than a dozen states including the carolinas are home to the very same mosquito that is responsible for the outbreak in Brazil.

We asked what, if anything, state agencies and hospitals are doing to prevent a possible spread.

The type of mosquito responsible for the spread of the Zika virus can’t just fly to the us. It would need to bite an infected traveler here. Eric Benson, an entomologist with the Clemson Cooperative Extension, explains why that’s a possibility in southern states.

“The mosquitoes that are of concern with the Zika virus are in the southeastern US, especially the Aisian Tiger mosquito. It’s here in South Carolina, it’s well established, we see it every year,” he said.

And that doesn’t even take into account the chances of it spreading through sexual contact, which reportedly has already happened in Texas.

The map in the video above shows which states may be most at risk come springtime. The darkest red states like Texas and Florida have the highest risk, but the carolinas are also on the radar.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control told 7 News “We will continue to monitor the spread. Mosquito-borne illnesses of all types are always a concern living in south carolina where mosquitoes are prevalent.”

Right now of course it’s cold, but as soon as it warms up DHEC will be repeatedly trapping and testing mosquitoes to see if they are carrying the Zika virus.

Dr. Chris Lombardozzi, the Chief Medical Officer with Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System emphasizes the virus is pretty harmless for adults. Still, the link to a major birth defect could prompt changes in prenatal care if cases spread in the us.

“So far there’s been no recommendation from the CDC or the World Health Organization to do prenatal testing. I certainly think that that’s on the horizon,” he said.

As for spraying, that’s up to your local municipality.

We asked Dr. Benson, “In South America they’re going to great lengths to spray in a different way than just fogging. Is that something that you recommend here if we start to see the Zika virus in the south?”

“No, from the report that I heard, they’re recommending possibly spraying underneath beds and on walls and in closets, and I just can’t see that being an effective way or a prudent way to control mosquitoes,” he said.

Benson says the best mosquito control is destroying breeding grounds by dumping any standing water near your home, and using insect repellant and proper screens and clothing.

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