MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - With the first case of Zika virus confirmed in Tennessee, Shelby County Health Department officials are warning residents to take precautions.
The case was confirmed in East Tennessee. However, that person recently traveled to South America where the disease is spreading rapidly.
Shelby County Health officials stressed that Zika is not a new virus. It was first discovered in Uganda in 1947. However, in May 2015, health officials in Brazil noticed locally transmitted cases of the disease. That meant that mosquitoes in the area were carrying the virus and were spreading it to people in the area.
In November 2015, Brazilians authorities noted that more babies were being born with smaller-than-average head sizes. This is a condition called microcephaly, in which a baby's brain doesn't develop fully and its head remains small. Microcephaly has been associated with several other viruses if the mother contracts them during pregnancy. However, current research has not definitively proved that Zika virus causes microcephaly in developing fetuses.
Still, some concerning evidence led the CDC to advise pregnant women against traveling to countries where Zika is currently circulating-- particularly in Central and South America.
The Shelby County Health Department advised that it's important to avoid contact with mosquitoes during this time because there is no available vaccine for Zika virus.
Here is a list of precautions the health department suggests travelers take:
- Wear loose fitting long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, IR3535, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not recommend any additional precautions for repellent use by pregnant or nursing women. Use insect repellents as directed.
- Sleep and stay in air-conditioned and/or screened-in rooms.
One of the 48 species of mosquitoes known to carry Zika virus can be found in Shelby County-- the Asian Tiger mosquito. The black mosquito with visible silver-white stripes is more common in urban areas.
Fortunately, the mosquito is only active between late April and late October. Even during a warm winter, the mosquito will not be found.
The mosquito is one of a few species that will bite people and animals during the day. It will lay eggs in small containers that hold water such as tires, buckets, cans, gutters, bottle caps and small ornamental ponds. The mosquito does not lay eggs in lakes, swimming pools, flood plains or ditches.
Because the mosquito tends not to travel very far, Shelby County Health Department encourages residents to check their yards for anything holding water and encourage neighbors to do the same.
All cases of Zika virus in the United States are in people who recently traveled to an area where the virus is circulating. There have been no locally transmitted cases in the U.S. at this time.
As of now, there are no reported cases of Zika virus in Shelby County.
For more information on Zika virus, click here.