Local officials discuss Zika virus epidemic

ALBERT LEA — Multiple health professionals Wednesday recommended a multi-pronged approach to combat the Zika virus.

The comments were made at a roundtable discussion by medical professionals from the Minnesota Department of Health and Mayo Clinic at Brookside Education Center that was mediated by District 27A Rep. Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea.

Mayo Clinic Dr. Pritish Tosh advised pregnant women not travel to Zika epidemic areas and wait eight weeks after returning from a known Zika epidemic area before trying to have a baby.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends men wait six months before trying to have a baby if returning from a known Zika epidemic area with Zika symptoms.

Tosh said the emphasis on Zika prevention should be on the most at-risk demographics, including pregnant women and babies, noting symptoms will not be evident in a majority of people with the virus.

The virus during pregnancy, however, can cause microcephaly and other severe fatal brain defects.

The most common symptoms of Zika are red eyes, joint pain, rash and a fever, according to the CDC. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting up to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito.

The Pan American Health Association issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infection in February in Brazil.

Local mosquito-borne transmission of the virus has been reported in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa, according to the CDC.

Tosh suggested supporting strong public health efforts to stop the spread of the virus.

Interim Recreation Director Bob Furland and Albert Lea 3rd Ward Councilor George Marin discussed the city’s approach to combating mosquito-borne illness that includes mosquito spraying.

Minnesota Department of Health Epidemiologist Franny Dorr suggested removing standing water to eliminate illness-carrying mosquitoes, noting placing fish in water can prevent the spread of the mosquitoes.

The discussion also included other illnesses transmitted by mosquitoes, such as LaCrosse encephalitis and West Nile Virus.

Bennett said the event was held so government could take a proactive role in the situation, noting she wanted preventative measures to be known.

Bennett said the event went well.

“I learned a lot myself,” she said.

The discussion was held for media members, local politicians and other stakeholders.

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