Time Warner News, in a piece dated Jan. 28, is reporting that an imported case of Zika has been reported in the Rochester, New York area. While little information has been released by the New York State Health Department, the case in Monroe County is confirmed and is one of five in the state thus far.
At this time, all of the Zika illnesses discovered in New York and in the United States have been contracted outside of the country. Scientific American has several maps detailing where the illness has been seen. Eleven states have reported detecting imported Zika infections accounting for at least 24 cases.
The mosquito borne illness is spreading throughout Central and South America. The primary vector is the Yellow Fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, which makes its habitat in the tropics and subtropics. The females of this species almost exclusively bite humans for the blood used in their reproductive cycle, and the species is found close to where humans live.
The Asian Tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, is also believed to transmit the Zika virus although it is currently unclear how involved this species is with the current outbreak in the Americas. This species will bite humans and also other animals. It is more cold tolerant and is found outside of the range inhabited by Aedes aegypti.
A Jan. 28 story from Sky News quotes doctors at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Recife, Brazil, as speculating that the Zika virus has adapted to a far more common family of mosquitoes, Culex. The various species of Culex are found in nearly all climates and are the primary vector for the transmission of the West Nile virus.
In humans, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that 80 percent of those infected by the Zika virus will have no symptoms. Patients with symptoms may experience “fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache.”
The continental United States provides habitat for both species of Aedes mosquitoes as well as a host of Culex species. Aedes aegypti is found in the most subtropical areas of Texas, Louisiana, Florida and in scattered areas around the Gulf Coast. Aedes albopictus is found from Texas eastward to the Atlantic and as far north as New York City and the Midwest. Culex species are found throughout the continental United States.
Until the United States warms enough for mosquitoes to come out of hibernation, any cases of Zika illness will have been contracted abroad. Dr. Scott Weaver of the University of Texas Medical Branch believes that there could be scattered outbreaks of the illness in those states with Aedes habitats. It will begin with one imported case who is bitten by local mosquitoes. “Most people don’t even know that they were infected,” he said.