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Zika Virus Discussed at Fort Carson Town Hall

Fort Carson
Fort Carson

A town hall meeting held by Fort Carson officials on the Zika virus Wednesday evening gave local health experts an opportunity to share facts of the disease and dispel misinformation about who's at risk of contracting the illness.

"We're coming into mosquito season, and we want to make sure that people are not in the dark about Zika -- that they understand what the threat is, and that there's a low threat here in Colorado," said Roger Meyer, a spokesman for Evans Army Community Hospital.

The state Department of Public Health and Environment said a local outbreak is unlikely because the types of mosquito that carry the virus, members of the Aedes genus, do not live in Colorado.

The state has seen three cases of Zika virus, all in people who traveled to countries where the disease was actively transmitted by mosquitoes, said Jennifer House, a state public health veterinarian. The disease can be transmitted sexually, although there is no recent record of Zika virus transmitted sexually in Colorado.

State health officials are taking steps to educate the public.

"We have a Zika task force, and we communicate regularly with local health departments, our hospitals and our obstetrics and gynecology associations," House said.

Medical officials shared details about transmission, symptoms, treatment and prevention of the Zika virus at Wednesday night's town hall.

No Zika cases have been reported in El Paso County, said Shannon Rowe, manager of communicable disease program at the county's public health department.

"We are closely monitoring the situation," Rowe said. "We've been providing updates to medical providers."

No mosquito-to-human transmissions of Zika virus have been reported in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of May 25, the CDC had record of 591 cases of people who were infected after traveling to areas where Zika was actively spreading and 11 cases of sexual transmission within the United States.

Mosquitoes testing positive for the virus have been found in the Pacific Islands, Africa, Southeast Asia and South and Central America, according to the CDC.

"The main people that are at risk are people that are traveling to those areas," said Dr. David Beckham, an infectious disease specialist with UCHealth and the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

About 20 percent of adults who contract Zika have symptoms, which include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes.

Pregnant women who contract the virus may give birth to children with a condition called microcephaly, where infants are born with small heads.

"There's varying degrees of severity for infants born from microcephaly," Beckham said. "Complications can range from learning disabilities all the way to major neurological deficits and seizures. It's a chronic condition that can result in significant long-term complications."

The CDC recommends that women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant avoid traveling to an area where the Zika virus is actively spreading. Additionally, pregnant women with a male partner who has traveled to an area where the disease is present are advised to use a condom or abstain from sex until their child is born to avoid infection.

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