LANSING – The Zika virus will likely reach Michigan, but it won’t be the mosquitoes that bring it, health officials say.
The mosquitoes that carry the virus, Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus, “live predominantly in tropical areas,” said Josh Meyerson, medical director for the Department of Health of Northwest Michigan.
Zika instead poses a threat to Michigan if someone contracts the virus elsewhere during a vacation and brings it here. While there are no confirmed cases of the virus in Michigan, it may be just a matter of time.
“It is likely that we will have confirmed cases of the Zika virus in Michigan,” said Jennifer Eisner, public information officer for the state Department of Health and Human Services.
Symptoms do not show for a few days to a week, so there is a chance someone could contract the virus on vacation, then return to Michigan along with the virus, Meyerson said.
“That’s been the case in the country for people who have returned from travel,” Meyerson said.
Common symptoms include a rash, fever, headaches and joint pain. Symptoms typically last for several days to a week. But people can be sick without having symptoms. Doctors are still working to figure out how the virus is transmitted.
“The most common form of transmission is through a mosquito,” Eisner said. “However, there have been documented cases that shows the Zika virus can be transmitted sexually.”
Health officials say the biggest risk is to pregnant women who travel to tropical areas where the mosquito that carries the virus lives. Infants of mothers carrying the virus are susceptible to microcephaly, a condition in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected at birth.
“Our job at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is to make sure that we’re working in coordination with the community, so doctors and physicians have the most up to date information to help educate their patients,” Eisner said.
Linda Vail, health officer for the Ingham County Health Department, said Zika virus testing is done all over the country. The mosquito is most commonly found in South America, Central America, Mexico, Africa and the Pacific Islands because of the favorable climate. Any pregnant woman who has traveled to those areas should be tested, Vail said. The only other people who are tested are those who traveled to those areas and show at least two of the symptoms.
“We have had pregnant women tested in Ingham County,” Vail said. “It’s proper prenatal care due to a known potential issue.”