Universities Prepare for Zika Virus as Classes StartBy Beth Golden
Students return to campus with another challenge: the risk of Zika Virus. While campuses with the help of authorities have taken the necessary steps to prevent the virus from getting into campus, risk is still there. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention are also taking steps to protect and educate the public and launched a website for Zika Virus.
There has been over 3,818 reported cases of Zika in the United States according to the CDC's Case Counts. Most of the cases were acquired during travel (3,712) and 105 cases were reported to have been acquired locally and mosquito-borne.
Most of the travel associated cases are from those who entered the U.S. from South and Central America and brought the virus with them. Some acquire the virus through sexual activity and the mosquito-borne cases are from Florida.
People with Zika shows mild symptoms of fever, rashes, headache, muscle and joint pains, and conjunctivitis. The virus can affect fetuses of expectant mothers causing them brain defects and babies being born with microcephaly or abnormally small heads. To date, there is no evidence that "a woman who is not pregnant would not pose a risk for birth defects in future pregnancies after the virus has cleared from her blood."
Florida has reported over 800 cases of Zika and universities have taken steps to educate students about the virus and how to protect themselves. Apart from informing students the University of Miami and the Florida International University (FIU) have also established prevention efforts in campus.
FIU created a committee to take charge of their campaign that initiated the steps in prevention which included treatment of standing water where mosquitoes might breed and an information campaign that included setting up signages in campus and FAQs on the university's website.
The University of Miami have also taken the same steps and included spraying insecticide in targeted areas inside the campus.
Since it's difficult to determine student's response and attitude towards the campaign, involving the community is another alternative. American College Health Association's (ACHA) Tim Moody also suggested using the CDC's Zika Interim Response Plan as a guideline.
While Miami might be the hotspot for Zika transmissions in the U.S., universities are non-complacent about the issue and are taking measures to protect their students.
Universities in the Gulf Coast have are doing preventive steps since their climate makes the area a suitable breeding ground for mosquitoes. Tulane University in New Orleans for example have kicked off prevention steps long before classes began. They have either drained or treated standing water and sprayed on campus several times during the summer.
The University Health Center of the University of Maryland at College Park even emailed students with tips and other relevant information about Zika before the start of the fall semester.
Since most cases of Zika were contracted with travel associated activities, the University of Texas at Austin's University Health Services gave consultation to students who came back from a trip for diagnosis and also inform them how to protect themselves and their sexual partners.
At the moment, there is no known vaccine or medicine for Zika, the best way for everyone to be protected is to be informed.