Currently a worldwide concern, and wreaking havoc in South and Central America, the Aedes aegypti mosquito could find its way northward to the Continental United States. It is the female of this species that passes the virus to humans. It’s also responsible for other diseases such as dengue fever, yellow fever and chikungunya. Officials in Florida are currently investigating what could be the first cast of the virus in the U.S. not attributable to travel from another country.
According to studies, the U.S. cities with closest proximity to the Caribbean and Mexico are most susceptible to the spread of the Zika virus. Those cities from southern Texas to Florida are included. The potential for a spread in the activity of the Zika-carrying mosquito would be greatest in the warmer months of May to October and the reach could be as far as California to the West and the Mid Atlantic States to the North. In the cooler months of November to April, the activity would tend to recede.
Aside from returning travelers, local poverty levels are also a factor in the spread as those with lower incomes may not have air conditioning or window screens. Should the Zika virus find a foothold in the U.S., those in low-income urban areas could be at greatest risk.
Although research to combat the virus is underway and steps are being taken in infected countries, the mosquito may appear in our country and take root in Southern states, possibly moving out and thriving in more northerly states.
The Centers for Disease Control offers advice and tips for avoiding exposure to the virus, the first of which is not getting bitten in the first place. Repellants and netting among other things add a layer of protection especially when traveling to countries with a Zika outbreak. Transmission has occurred during sex so women who are pregnant are advised to take steps to prevent this. The CDC also recommends travelers avoid getting bitten by mosquitos (even when in this country) for three week after returning to the U.S. to be safe.