Zika virus ‘spreading explosively,’ health officials warn public to stay vigilant

Zika virus is “spreading explosively,” and health officials fear it’s only going to get worse.

The World Health Organization says Zika is spreading so quickly, as many as four million people may get infected in the next year.

Here in Hawaii, a baby was born with Zika after the mother spent time in Brazil. The baby was born with microcephaly, a disorder resulting in the birth of babies with small heads.

Zika is a mosquito-born illness spreading in Brazil and other countries in South America, but Hawaii’s health officials are quick to point out, the disease does not originate in Hawaii.

“The disease is not active in our mosquitoes here, but what I’m saying is, we have mosquitoes that could carry it,” said Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist.

Zika is transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito, which is found in Hawaii.

Thousands of travelers from all over the world visit Hawaii, and that’s something the DOH says to keep in mind.

“We have a lot of travelers, and we travel ourselves. We need to be proactive. We know the mosquito exists here,” Park said.

Officials urge residents to avoid traveling to places with the Zika virus outbreak, use insect repellent, cover up your body as much as possible, and get rid of standing water around the house.

“It can be prevented if we prevent the mosquitoes. We can protect our community if we practice mosquito prevention here at home,” Park said.

Dr. Elliot Parks, CEO of Hawaii Biotech, says there is no vaccine for Zika, but the company is working on it.

“Should people in Hawaii be concerned over Zika virus?” KHON2 asked.

“Not now, not yet, not today. Possibly this summer,” Parks said, noting that’s when mosquito activity on the mainland picks up.

Parks says he will continue to monitor the spread of Zika, but Hawaii residents shouldn’t worry.

“Dengue is fairly rare. Chikungunya is fairly rare. One can argue that Zika will be fairly rare in the northern hemisphere, too. We will just have to see,” he said.

What is Zika? Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. Same mosquito that carries the dengue virus.

Symptoms: mild fever, skin rash, red eyes, normally lasts for 2-7 days.

Vaccine: There is no specific treatment or vaccine currently available.

Where it originated from: Known to be in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific.

How it’s transmitted: through the bite of an infected mosquito

Who is at risk? Anyone living in or traveling to an area where Zika virus is found who has not already been infected with Zika virus is at risk for infection, including pregnant women

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