JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Several Region 8 counties have a high risk of the Zika virus being transmitted, according to a study by St. Louis University.
An online article by SLU researchers explains these findings don't mean Zika is being transmitted in these counties. However, they stress that there's a high chance it could happen here.
The article puts the Mississippi River Delta at the center of the high risk which affects our area.
Here are the counties researchers believe have a high risk of transmission:
- Greene: 100 percent
- Poinsett: 100 percent
- Craighead: 85 percent
- Cross: 85 percent
- St. Francis: 85 percent
- Mississippi: 70 percent
- Crittenden: 70 percent
- New Madrid: 100 percent
- Butler: 100 percent
- Pemiscot: 70 percent
The lead author of the study Dr. Enbal Shacham, associate professor of behavioral science and health education at SLU, explained what motivated them to release their findings.
"The purpose of this study was not to create unwarranted alarm, but rather to enhance Zika prevention methods such as mosquito control, effective prevention message dissemination, and treatment and care preparation, in advance of a Zika epidemic in the contiguous U.S.," Dr. Shacham said.
The Zika virus can infect everyone and can cause birth defects in newborns.
The Arkansas Department of Health reports as of Jan. 2017, 18 people in the Natural State have Zika, but it's only been travel-related cases not "locally acquired."
The department has not released where these cases were reported.
Dr. Tanja McKay, a professor of entomology at Arkansas State University, said mosquitoes will likely be seen earlier this year thanks to a mild winter and a wet March.
She said there shouldn't be a higher number of mosquitoes overall for the season, though.
Of the 16 mosquito species that Dr. McKay has collected in Jonesboro, only one is a carrier for the Zika virus.
The Aedes albopictus, more commonly known as the Asian tiger mosquito, can carry the Zika virus and has been found here.
Dr. McKay said they are not widespread, though, and are more likely to be found in areas where trash or debris has accumulated and there is standing water.
She said those mosquitoes are not in great abundance. In Region 8, we see more mosquitoes from rice fields that are not disease carriers.
She does not believe people in Region 8 are at a higher risk of contracting Zika than those in more tropical climates, like Florida because we only have one of the two breeds of mosquitoes that carry the virus. Both breeds are found in more tropical areas.
Dr. McKay stressed that it is everyone's responsibility to combat the mosquito population.
She said a backyard full of trash, debris, or old appliances like refrigerators or tires is a breeding ground for mosquitoes because standing water can accumulate in those places.
Dr. McKay said she does not believe she could accurately say one county is more at risk based only on the mosquito population.
She said it only takes one infected person to start the spread of the disease so it could happen, but the number of carrier mosquitoes is not widespread in Region 8.
To read more about the article, click here.
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