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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

Incoming Zika: A Mosquito Bite becomes Russian Roulette

April 12th, 2016

By Gary Evans, Senior Staff Writer

Prepare for the summer of the mosquito, preferably the dead mosquito. The more we learn about the Zika virus the worse it gets, and thus its prime vector – arguably the most dangerous creature in the animal kingdom – will be targeted with extreme prejudice.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the Zika virus circulating in the gut of a recently fed female Aedes aegypti mosquito (and possibly other varieties) is the bullet of blood in a game of Russian Roulette. The needle-like proboscis is flexible and can seek out a good blood vessel upon penetrating the skin. If, as in this scenario, the mosquito has recently fed on someone with Zika virus in their blood, then we can have the effect of sharing needles among addicts. The Zika virus is rudely introduced into the new victim, setting off a spin of the chamber that could result in mild or undetectable symptoms for most; Guillain-Barre paralytic syndrome and possibly other neurological disorders in rare cases; and possibly serious birth defects if the bite victim is pregnant.

“We hope we don’t see widespread local transmission, but the states need to be ready,” Anne Schuchat, MD, Principal Deputy Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at an April 11 press conference. “We have learned that the virus is linked to a broader set of complications in pregnancy – not just microcephaly, but also prematurity, eye problems and other conditions.”

There is some question whether another variety of AedesAedes albopictus – will be a carrier of Zika in North America. Though it may not be as effective a transmitter as its cousin, A. albopictus' range extends further north and some entomologists weighing in on informal message boards warn that there is every possibility that it could spread Zika as well. Another wide-ranging mosquito called Culex has shown the ability to carry the virus in the lab, but not in the wild.

At any rate, the CDC is increasing the Zika transmission warning area from 12 to 30 states, which includes the Southern and lower Western states but also goes up to lower Minnesota in the Midwest and to the lower tip of Maine in the Northeast.

Puerto Rico is beset with an epidemic currently, and the situation can be expected to worsen before it improves.

“We are quite concerned about Puerto Rico, where the virus is spreading throughout the island,” Schuchat says. “We think there could be hundreds of thousands of cases of Zika virus in Puerto Rico and perhaps hundreds of effected babies.”

Learn more about Zika through AHC Media's upcoming webinar "The Zika Virus: Separating Fact from Fiction – A Discussion with Experts"
May 19, 2016 Time: 12:30 pm PT, 1:30 pm MT, 2:30 pm CT & 3:30 pm ET
Earn .5 CME & .5 CE & .5 CCM just for listening

For more online AHC Media coverage on this vital issue, please visit reliasmedia.com/Zika.