Most Coloradans Not At Risk Of Zika Virus, Say Health Officials

Published: Mar. 15, 2016 at 8:38 AM MDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

The only concern El Paso County residents need to have about the Zika virus is if traveling to an infected country.

Tuesday, the El Paso County health department gave county commissioners an update about the Zika virus.

Health officials stressed that the mosquito that carries the virus cannot live in Colorado because of the altitude and temperature.

"The important thing to know is that Zika virus won't be coming here, you would need to be traveling somewhere to get Zika virus," said Shannon Rowe with El Paso County Public Health. "So, traveling to Central or South America, where this is ongoing local transmission.

"The mosquito is not native to Colorado, and cannot survive in Colorado. The mosquitoes that do live in Colorado do not have the ability to carry the Zika virus."

According to the CDC, two Zika virus cases have been reported in Colorado. That's out of 193 cases reported nationwide. With those two individuals, they had traveled to Zika-infected countries.

Both patients have recovered, but health officials say even when infected, the general public was not at risk of contracting the disease. The only way a Coloradan who has not traveled would get infected, would be by being intimate with someone who was.

"It's important to communicate with your male partner if your male partner has traveled to an area with the Zika virus. It's important to know if they've developed symptoms and to practice safe sex, and to use a condom the right way every time, especially if you're of child-bearing age," Rowe said.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says there's not a a vaccine that can prevent the virus. The most common symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain or red eyes.

Last month, the World Heath Organization declared the rapid spread of the virus as a public health emergency. Right now, the CDC is working with state and local health departments to inform health care providers about the Zika virus. The majority of the reported cases in the US are people who traveled to a Zika-infected country.

Health officials say if you're planning to go to the Olympics this summer, make sure to wear mosquito protection.

A facility in Fort Collins is the main testing site for potential Zika cases in the U.S. Researchers diagnose samples that come from all over the world.

Protecting yourself from a Zika-infected mosquito is no different than protecting yourself from any other mosquito.  Follow what officials call the four Ds:

DRAIN standing water around your house weekly. Don’t forget to drain water from tires, cans, flowerpots, clogged rain gutters, rain barrels, toys and puddles.
DUSK and DAWN are when mosquitoes that carry the virus are most active. Limit outdoor activities or take precautions to prevent mosquito bites during these times.
DEET is an effective ingredient to look for in insect repellents. Always follow label instructions carefully.
DRESS in long sleeves and pants in areas where mosquitoes are active.