Seattle may not be a hot spot for the mosquito-borne Zika virus, but the number of local cases could swell during the summer travel season. First identified in 1947 in Uganda, Zika—often a symptomless virus—is now a household name because it has been linked to several debilitating conditions, including microcephaly, in which babies are born with smaller-than-average heads, and Guillain-Barré syndrome, a nervous system condition causing temporary paralysis in adults and children.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito, known to spread the virus, isn’t found in our region. At press time, all cases in the U.S. were associated with travel outside with country—but that could change. A new report from the National Center for Atmospheric Research warns that spring and summer weather conditions in the eastern and southern U.S. may foster the growth of Aedes mosquito populations, increasing Zika risk in cities as far north as New York City, and as far west as Phoenix and Los Angeles.
Because of the link between Zika and microcephaly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises pregnant woman to avoid travel to all affected areas—those in the U.S. (find updates at cdc.gov/zika) as well as elsewhere in the world.
That recommendation is echoed by the Seattle-based Polyclinic, which also suggests steering clear of all mosquito bites by wearing long sleeves and pants, and using a mosquito repellent recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency; find one atepa.gov/insect-repellents.