Israelis should avoid travel to Zika-affected areas

Haifa University researchers find connection between warm weather in northeast Brazil and spread of virus

By
February 4, 2016 00:49
2 minute read.
Mosquito

Mosquito (illustrative).. (photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)

 
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The Health Ministry in Jerusalem said its public health professionals are holding discussions with outside gynecologists; experts in the fetus and infectious diseases; pediatricians; blood banks; and epidemiologists to prepare exact instructions for Israelis who return from countries where the Zika virus is endemic.

So far, it has advised pregnant women or those who plan to become pregnant in the near future to consider postponing visits to areas that are affected by the virus.

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All those who do go should use mosquito repellent; wear long-sleeved shirts and long trousers and a hat; stay in rooms with screens on the windows or with air conditioning; and sleep with netting over their beds that are sprayed against mosquitoes.

Women who visit the at-risk countries should avoid getting pregnant during their visits and for four weeks after leaving, the ministry said. In a small number of cases, men who were infected by Zika infected their sexual partners.

Thus they must use condoms when they are there and up to four weeks after leaving.

There is a connection between the sudden outbreak of the Zika virus, which causes damage to newborns of women bitten by an Aedes aegypti strain of mosquitoes, and the extremely hot and dry weather last winter and spring in northeast Brazil, according to preliminary University of Haifa research.

The study, headed by Dr.

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Shlomit Paz of the university’s geography and environmental studies department, with experts in the European Center for Disease Control, was just published in the prestigious journal The Lancet. The extreme arid and hot weather in this part of Brazil result from the combination of the El Nino (a band of warm ocean water that develops in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific) and climatic changes that have been occurring in recent years, Paz said.

The virus, which has been known to scientists for decades, has caused an emergency in South America, Southeast Asia and other hot regions and has even reached the US and elsewhere due to travelers. The spread of the virus resulted not from rains, which fell in locations far from where Brazilian outbreak first appeared, but because of the extreme dry heat there, the researchers said.

High temperatures promote the thriving of the mosquitoes, which also need water in which to breed. Six months ago, the weather in Brazil was perfectly suited to the insects.

Paz said their research was preliminary. “We are now working to expand it to understand better the exact connection between climatic conditions and the epidemic.

Given the dangers to health and the fact that the mosquitoes also carry other viruses such as those that cause Dengue fever and Chikungunya virus [whose symptoms are fever and joint pain] that has affected countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Indian and Pacific Oceans, “it’s important to consider the connection we already found in analyzing the factors that triggered the current outbreak,” Paz said.

Meanwhile, the Entomological Society of America said a product called the OFF! Clip- On repellent device could be an effective tool for preventing bites from the Aedes aegypti mosquito, according to an article in the Journal of Medical Entomology.

The device repels mosquitoes by releasing a vapor form of insecticide through a battery- powered fan, forming an insecticide “cloud” around the wearer of the device. Florida researchers tested it outdoors using hungry mosquitoes and found that the OFF! Clip-On caused high mosquito mortality and knockdown rates up to 30 centimeters from the device, enough to protect a single person wearing the device.

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