PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) –The Health Department Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott says it is important to remember that while the Zika virus is in Rhode Island, it is not being locally spread.
While there are 18 cases in the Ocean State, according to Dr. Alexander-Scott, “these cases were all travel related, meaning the person got the virus from traveling to an area of the world that does have active Zika transmission.”
She does advise pregnant women to take precautions traveling though, and to not go to a neighborhood in northern Miami, Florida, where the virus was recently found to be transmitted through mosquitoes.
The Zika virus has been linked to birth defects , particularly microcephaly, a condition where a baby’s head is born abnormally small.
Dr. Alexander-Scott says Florida is working hard to keep the spread of Zika-transmitting mosquitoes under control.
Here in Rhode Island, she says there hasn’t been a need to spray for mosquitoes in years. Instead, the federal funds recently awarded to the state will be used to promote awareness about mosquito-borne illnesses and how people can protect themselves.
Zika isn’t the only mosquito-borne illness that the Health Department is watching.
Just a few days ago, West Nile virus was found in a sample of mosquitoes from Pawtucket. “This finding of West Nile Virus has only been in a mosquito,” said Dr. Alexander-Scott. “Not a human being. And it’s not unusual at this time of the year for us to find mosquito traps that are positive for West Nile Virus,” she added.
Dr. Alexander-Scott says Rhode Islanders should protect themselves against local mosquitoes, and be vigilant about where they travel.
“Stay aware, become educated, continue to be educated, and that’s why we want to be available.”
For more information about Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses, visit the Department of Health website.