Hilbert Morales, M.P.H. / El Observador
An Aedes albopictus female mosquito feeds on a human blood meal. Photo by James Gathany, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

At southeastern Brazil’s town of Piracicaba, genetic engineering is being used to produce modified sterile mosquitoes being used to reduce the mosquito as a vector of the ZIKA VIRUS. In such treated areas, the mosquito population is reduced by some 80%. The genetically engineered mosquito clones are sterile; so after mating, no further progeny are produced. In addition, people must eliminate any pools of standing water where mosquitoes propagate.

Public health data associate microcephaly with Zita virus whose vector is mosquitoes. When a pregnant woman is infected by a mosquito bite, she may not even become ill. However, when she delivers her baby at term, it may have microcephaly (a small head) as a birth defect. Some 6,000 Brazilian children have been diagnosed with microencephaly in this Piracicaba metropolitan area, especially in its slum communities.

Pregnant women would be well advised to wear clothing that leaves as little skin as possible exposed so as to minimize mosquito bites. And they would be well advised not to travel to areas known to have mosquito vectors carrying the Zika virus which is being spread to other geographic regions in an alarmingly rapid manner. In fact, the Wednesday edition of the San Jose Mercury News, 02.03.16, page A4 (a Bay Area News Group publication) published a report entitled, “Texas Zika Case Was Sexually Transmitted”. WHO (World Health Organization) has declared a global emergency because of the rapid spread of this Zika virus (vector: Mosquitoes) from Brazil, where it was first detected recently, all the way to Dallas, Texas. An Associated Press reporter, Jamie Stengle, writes, “A person in Dallas has been infected with the Zika virus after having sex with an ill person who had returned from a country where the (Zika) disease was present. Dallas,’ County health officials said Tuesday. (This) is the first case of the (Zika) virus being transmitted in the U.S. during the current outbreak of Zika (virus) which has been linked to birth defects in the Americas, Dallas Count Health and Human Services said. It received confirmation of the case from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.” CDC established that the infected person had traveled to Venezuela recently. CDC also established that in this case there is no risk to the developing fetus. The Zika virus is usually spread through mosquito bites, but (CDC) investigators have been exploring the possibility that the (Zika) virus can be spread through sex(ual contact).

CDC officials state that the usual mode of spreading of this Zika virus is through the Aedes aegypti mosquito species. Mosquitoes are responsible for spreading two other tropical diseases: Dengue Fever and Chikungunya though no cases have been reported in the continental United States.

Nonetheless, any pregnant woman who is planning to travel to the Caribbean and the Americas needs to know enough to take precautionary measures. Mosquito vectored viral diseases are a serious public health concern.