Professor puts concern about Zika virus into perspective

Texas State Professor puts the Zika virus into perspective (KXAN Photo)
Texas State Professor puts the Zika virus into perspective (KXAN Photo)

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — The mosquito born virus called Zika has been around for almost 70 years, but you’re hearing more about it now due to cases popping up in the past few months here in the United States. If you have plans to be outside this holiday weekend, a local infectious disease specialist says don’t cancel them.

“It does seem like in the world of public health and in medical laboratory science that we see these kind of outbreaks that people focus in on right now. Now, they are important don’t get me wrong, they are very important because they do cause morbidity and mortality in certain instances,” said Texas State professor and infectious disease specialist Dr. Rodney Rohde.

As word travels about Zika many have become concerned. “What if it doesn’t go away, and we are the next generation,” said 15-year-old Hannah Pickens. She learned about the virus in her high school biology class.

“Our teacher brings newspaper clippings of things that are involved with the environment and she brought Zika one day and we were like ‘this isn’t a big deal’ and then it kept getting bigger and bigger and were like ‘this is a big deal,’” said Pickens.

But according to Dr. Rohde, he says that although it’s serious it’s likely not something you will ever come in contact with. “I don’t want to sweep these under the rug, these infections are very important to understand because the potential is always there especially in places like Texas. But, in general, for the general population, healthy individuals shouldn’t be too concerned other than being aware, you could walk out the door and have a greater chance of getting in an accident on I-35 or getting the flu virus,” he said.

So far the virus hasn’t been found in mosquitoes in the United States, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t protect yourself when you’re enjoying the outdoors. Dr. Rohde says rather than being fearful, it’s best to be educated.

“When I think about that virus, I try to keep it in perspective because there are plenty of other infectious diseases that number in the thousands literally in the United States and in Texas. Just be aware enough to know to seek attention if you have anything weird going on with symptoms or if things worsen,” said Dr. Rohde.

The symptoms of Zika are mild such as a fever, rash or joint pain. For people like Pickens, she says even though she has learned that catching the virus is unlikely, it’s taught her to be more mindful of her surroundings.

“Ever since we started getting a little more scared about this, we started dumping water out, we used to keep them for animals and wildlife and stuff but now I just think that mosquito larva could be growing,” said Pickens.

Texas has had 48 reported cases of Zika, 47 were in travelers infected abroad and diagnosed after they returned home. One acquired the infection from sexual contact with someone who got it while traveling.

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