Monday, August 1, 2016

Zika the real deal for Texas PMP

More than 1600 cases of Zika have been reported in the U.S. so far, but until last week all of these had been in travelers--people who caught the virus somewhere else and brought it here.  As of last week, however, the picture is changing.  Last week four cases among people who had not traveled outside of their town were reported from north Miami in south Florida.  In an alarming development for Miamians this morning, 10 new locally acquired cases were reported today, likely signalling the first home grown epidemic of Zika infection in the U.S. All cases so far have been restricted to the north Miami neighborhood of Wynwood.

Jackie Thornton's Zika rash appeared about ten
days after he became infected.  It itched like
measles, he said.
Could this happen in Texas, or other states?  Absolutely.

When Jackie Thornton volunteered at his church to go on  a summer mission trip to the island of Dominica in the eastern Caribbean, the last thing on his mind was Zika virus.  Jackie is the owner of Alvin Pest Control in Alvin, TX, and long-time PMP.  "I was more worried about bed bugs," he admitted.

But when he arrived on Dominica (pronounced doe men NEE kah), someone mentioned that Zika and Chikungunya cases had been reported on the island.

Life in Dominica is a world away from a Texas suburban town like Alvin. Nighttime temperatures this time of year typically hover around 85 degrees F. Not so hot that air conditioning is a necessity, and besides few could afford such luxury.  The home where Jackie and his team slept was typical for the area.  Keeping cool at night depended on a nice breeze coming through one of the unscreened windows.

Knowing that Zika was around, and being an Associate Certified Entomologist, Jackie got interested in what was flying in his window.  Each night he would catch a few mosquitoes that looked more like house mosquitoes than the yellow fever mosquito, believed to be the primary Zika carrier.  Maybe things wouldn't be that bad after all.

But he got worried again about Zika about a week after arriving. "I developed a low grade headache that seemed to be behind my eyes," he said.  "It was worse when I woke up and lessened as the day progressed."  Eventually four others on his team also got sick, but not enough to keep any of them from working their shifts at vacation Bible school and helping repair homes damaged by Hurricane Erica.

After returning to Texas on July 24 the headaches persisted.  Two days later he woke up with joint pain in his hands, elbows, knees and feet, he said.  The next day, about a week and a half after the first headaches started, he went to the doctor for his joint pain.  On the way to the clinic, an itchy rash broke out "head to toe".  It was like having measles, he said.

Red itchy eyes was the only classic symptom of Zika that Jackie didn't have.  But he says he saw plenty of folks with red eyes while he was there.

Today, two and a half weeks after the first headache, he still itches, but the headache and joint pain is not as bad.  In typical PMP trouper fashion Jackie said he never felt like he had to be bedridden, but that it's been an "uncomfortable nuisance".  Indeed Jackie worked at his pest control company all last week, albeit while wearing long sleeves and lots of insect repellent to reduce the chance of starting his own Alvin, TX epidemic (an important community health precaution for any returning traveler, sick or not).

He now says, with a little bit of irony, "I may be the first U.S. PMP to come down with Zika."

I tell Jackie's story to remind us all that the risk from Zika virus is real... especially for anyone traveling to an area where Zika infections are active.

To see a map showing cities at highest risk for Zika this summer, click  http://www.cbsnews.com/news/zika-virus-mosquitoes-us-cities-most-at-risk/

To learn more about "Zika precautions for Women", see http://citybugs.tamu.edu/files/2016/06/Ento-053-Zika-Precautions-for-Women.pdf  and "What Texans Need to Know About Zika" see http://citybugs.tamu.edu/files/2016/06/ENTO-052-What-Texans-Need-to-Know-about-Zika.pdf




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