Monsoon impact on the Zika virus in Arizona

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Mosquitoes from the monsoon could increase the number of cases of the Zika virus in Arizona. (Source: KTVK) Mosquitoes from the monsoon could increase the number of cases of the Zika virus in Arizona. (Source: KTVK)
The Zika virus has already made its way to Arizona. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) The Zika virus has already made its way to Arizona. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
The Zika virus is a big concern for pregnant woman. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) The Zika virus is a big concern for pregnant woman. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Zika virus has already made its way into Arizona. So what happens when the monsoon gets here and mosquito numbers skyrocket? 

We asked Craig Levy with the Maricopa County Department of Health. First off, he says, it’s important to understand how the virus made it to our state.

"In the case of Arizona, it would be people traveling in areas where Zika virus is active, getting infected, and then coming back infected with the virus in their blood," Levy said.

The virus could spread if that person is bitten by a specific type of mosquito -- the Aedes Aegypti. It’s the only type of mosquito that carries Zika. In theory, it shouldn’t even be here.

"This is not a desert mosquito," according to Levy. "But we take our desert and we tropicalize it with our lawns and our shrubs and plants and irrigation and you name it. And all of the containers in people’s yards where mosquitoes can breed have created a perfect environment for them."

Heavy monsoon rains create areas of stagnant water where Aedes Aegypti eggs will hatch.  The more of those mosquitoes we have around, the higher the risk.

"Aedes Aegypti are mostly daytime-active and they are ankle biter so they're mostly biting people around the lower feet and ankles," said Levy.

Most people won’t get very sick from Zika. The symptoms are mild, with fever, body aches, and a rash that will typically only last a few days. However, as you’ve probably heard, Zika poses a huge threat to pregnant women and their unborn children.

"There's definitely been an established link to infections with Zika virus during pregnancy causing some birth defects, such as microcephaly which is abnormally small head size in the babies," Levy said.

Zika virus has been widespread in Latin America, especially Brazil.  It has also migrated to the Caribbean, and parts of Mexico, as well as Africa and southeast Asia.

Levy advises anyone returning from a Zika-active country to avoid mosquito bites by using insect repellants for up to two weeks. He says pregnant women should not travel to these areas, and couples who want to have a baby but haven’t conceived yet should think twice about unprotected sex if they’ve spent any time in Zika-active countries.

"Whether it's the lady or her partner, after they've traveled to that area they should probably put off getting pregnant for several months so there isn't a potential chance for getting Zika during pregnancy," Levy said.

If you travel to any Zika virus hot zones and experience symptoms, you’ll want to contact the Arizona Department of Health Services and get tested immediately.

As for the rest of us, Levy says we should pay attention to our own backyards.

"The best way to not have local transmission is for everybody to clean up their own properties to make sure they don't have the containers that are breeding the mosquitoes," Levy said.

Copyright 2016 KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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