SLU Researchers Predict Local Hotspots For Zika

ST. LOUIS, MO/March 28, 2017 (STL.News) St. Louis City and St. Clair County, Illinois are among the hotspots for the transmission of the Zika virus.

That’s according to a study by St. Louis University, which reports these areas are at high risk for Zika infection.  University researchers predict that the bulls-eye of Zika transmission is on the Mississippi delta.

“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.,” said Enbal Shacham, Ph.D., M.Ed., associate professor of behavioral sciences and health education at Saint Louis University and the lead author of the study.

“We need significant planning and prevention in areas and populations most likely to experience the highest burdens from Zika infection.  Timely strategies to communicate risk, control mosquito populations, and prevent disease transmission are imperative to preventing a large-scale Zika epidemic in the United States.” added Shacham.

The researchers studied 3,108 counties in the United States.  They determined 507 “high risk” areas for Zika transmission based on a variety of factors.  This included the presence of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, high rates of sexually transmitted infections, which is an established surrogate marker for unprotected sex, number of women of child-bearing age, and an estimate of birth rates for each county.

“Recent reports suggest that the Zika virus can survive within semen for significant amounts of time, and thus, the sexual transmission route of infection may be significantly underestimated,” Shacham said.

“The sexually transmitted route is also concerning because sexually transmitted infections tend to cluster geographically and occur disproportionately in areas with higher concentrated disadvantage.  The problem is especially concerning in our region, due to the high rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia and the increased likelihood of the mosquito that carries Zika virus being present in the city of St. Louis  and St. Clair County, Illinois.” said Shacham.

Zika poses the most serious threat to unborn babies.  Those health risks include birth defects, such as brain damage and even death.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services recommend taking the following precautions to avoid mosquito bites:

Wear insect repellent on exposed skin and your clothing.

Stay in places with air conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.

When staying outdoors sleep under a mosquito net if you are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.

Tip n’ Toss – once a week empty and scrub, turnover, cover, or throw out any items that hold water like tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flowerpot saucers, or trash containers. Mosquitoes lay eggs near water.

Tightly cover water storage containers (buckets, cisterns, rain barrels) so that mosquitoes cannot get inside to lay eggs.