Oregon mosquitoes being tested for Zika virus this summer

The chances of coming down with Zika in Oregon

SALEM, Ore. -- The Zika virus didn’t make a big impact on Oregon last year, even as the disease spread across multiple countries and became a worldwide health concern in 2016.

Fifty-one Oregonians were infected with the virus last year — all in travel-related incidents — and all recovered, according to officials.

But that doesn’t mean officials are taking chances. Oregon will attempt to trap and test mosquitoes for the Zika virus all summer, said Emilio DeBess, state public health veterinarian. 

More: Get ready for bad summer of mosquitoes

“Historically, we have not been an area the mosquitos that carry the virus (would be in),” DeBess said. “But our climate is changing, so we have to expect the unexpected. We got funding from CDC to find out if the  mosquitoes responsible for Zika virus transmission are present here in Oregon.”

The testing is taking place in locations around Portland, Medford, Klamath Falls and across Eastern Oregon, DeBess said. He said they’d start to get results around July.

“These mosquitoes tend to like warmer weather,” he said. “The traps are set up, but probably we will not  have information until July when we have a good idea if they are here or not.”

While DeBess stressed there wasn’t a major concern, he said he wouldn’t rule anything out.

“There’s always potential based on a changing climate that new mosquitoes get introduced, get a foothold in and end up staying,” he said.

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10 things to know about Zika in Oregon

1. Zika is a virus usually spread by mosquitoes. Zika can also spread through sexual activity with an infected person, even if that person shows no sign of illness.

2. We know of only two types of mosquitoes that spread Zika. Those mosquitoes have not been found in Oregon. We do not know if Oregon’s mosquitoes could spread Zika if it were introduced to our mosquito population. Mosquitoes are being watched closely and control efforts have begun.

3. Most people who have Zika do not show signs of illness. Those who do show signs of Zika may have a rash, fever, joint pain and redness of the eyes. Zika symptoms are usually mild. Serious illness that creates a need for hospital care is uncommon.

4. Zika can cause birth defects when pregnant women are infected. Birth defects include microcephaly, which is when a baby’s head is smaller than usual and the brain is not fully developed.

5. Zika may also be linked to Guillain-Barré Syndrome, but further research is needed. Guillain-Barré Syndrome can cause muscles to be weak and sometimes leads to paralysis.

6. There is no way to treat Zika. There is also no vaccine for Zika, though research is underway. We know three ways to prevent the spread of Zika:

  • Avoid unprotected sexual activities with people who could have Zika.
  • Get rid of standing water and places mosquitoes live.

7. Some cases of Zika have been found in Oregon in recent years; all were linked to travel to areas where Zika was being spread.

8.The Oregon Health Authority is working with local health departments and Oregon health care providers to find and test people who should have a Zika test.

9. The Oregon State Public Health Laboratory can test those people who meet public health testing criteria.

10. The CDC recommends:

  • Pregnant women not travel to areas where Zika is being spread.
  • Women and men coming back from an area with Zika should delay pregnancy to reduce the risks of Zika.
  • Those coming from an area with Zika should avoid sex or use a condom during any sexual activity with their pregnant partner. Use of other barrier methods, like dental dams or latex sheets, is recommended even though more research is needed to determine how much protection they may provide.

Zach Urness has been an outdoors writer, photographer and videographer in Oregon for eight years. He is the author of the book “Hiking Southern Oregon” and can be reached at zurness@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6801. Find him on Twitter at @ZachsORoutdoors.

© 2017 KGW-TV


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