Hurricane Matthew could kill off Zika virus in Florida as torrential rain and floods wash away mosquito breeding sites
- More than 900 cases of Zika virus have been reported across Florida
- The virus causes birth defects and is spread by infected mosquitoes
- Hurricane Matthew has flooded the species' normal breeding grounds
- There remains a threat once waters settle into contained areas where the mosquitoes are known to thrive
Hurricane Matthew may kill off Zika virus in Florida by washing away the breeding sites of mosquitoes which carry the disease.
More than 900 people across the state have contracted the disease across the state either through travel or local infection.
Cases of mosquitoes carrying the disease were confirmed in Miami Beach earlier this year, sparking fears an epidemic could be imminent.
The sudden onslaught of floods and torrential rain brought by Matthew over the weekend to Florida's east coast could however wipe out the threat.
Hurricane Matthew, which has flooded entire towns across the east coast of Florida, could wipe out the threat of Zika virus in the state by washing away the breeding grounds of mosquitoes which carry it. Above, two boys push their streets through Smyrna Beach, Florida, one of the areas hit by the hurricane
With entire towns submerged in water, the man-made reservoirs where the mosquitoes usually thrive have had their boundaries destroyed.
Coupled with the hurricane's timing at the end of the mosquito season, chances of fresh cases have been brought down by the storm.
The threat may rise again once flood waters settle into reservoirs or are contained, creating optimum conditions for any lingering mosquitoes which carry the virus to breed.
'In the first wave of wind, heavy rains, and storm surge it could even have a beneficial effect in terms of washing away mosquito breeding sites,' Peter Hotez of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College, told The Atlantic.
'But then as the waters recede, it could leave residual reservoirs of water in human-made containers that could breed Aedes aegypti.'
The virus is spread by Aedes aegypti, a breed of mosquito which thrives in contained bodies of water
With the boundaries of reservoirs, rivers and other standing bodies of water burst by the hurricane, the mosquitoes have nowhere to lay their eggs. Above is St Augustine, Florida, on Friday
Florida's Dade County, which takes in Miami and its southeastern tip, has been worst affected by Zika.
Twelve individual cases where people had been infected by local mosquitoes were found in Wynwood, Miami, in August, at the start of the virus's US spread.
Since then the Florida Department of Health's total of people in the state who have been affected has risen to 987.
Most, more than 700, of these were contracted through travel however 141 were in the US.
Ten people have been killed and more than 1million left without power in the US since Matthew made landfall early on Friday morning.
Zika causes birth defects in unborn babies by infecting their pregnant mothers. A baby in Brazil born with the disease is seen above, his skull misshapen by the virus
Miami's Dade County is where the first cases of Zika in Florida were reported in August. Above, a grounds keeper at Parrot Jungle sprays pesticides to stave off the insects
Hurricane Matthew marched further up the east coast on Saturday afternoon, brushing past North Carolina after battering Florida, Georgia and South Carolina since Friday
In Florida, the towns of St Augustine and Jacksonville were left almost entirely under water.
It made its way up the east coast to Georgia on Friday night, hitting Savannah and the island of St Simons with 105mph winds and floods at around 8pm.
By Saturday morning the category 2 hurricane struck South Carolina, its surges rushing through the historic streets of Charleston.
It was downgraded to a category 1 hurricane on Saturday afternoon as it tailed off the tip of North Carolina and began heading back on itself over the Atlantic.
Flash flood warnings are still in place across the states and residents along the entire south east coast have been warned to take caution.
In Haiti, where it began, more than 840 people lost their lives. Hundreds of thousands are in desperate need of humanitarian aid.
Police and US Army corps have been distributed across the affected region to help with the clean-up process.
LATEST ON ZIKA: WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS
HOW DO PEOPLE GET IT?
Zika is transmitted to people through the bite of infected female mosquitoes, primarily the Aedes aegypti mosquito.
It is the same type that spreads dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are found in all countries in the Americas except Canada and continental Chile.
Zika will likely reach all countries and territories of the region where Aedes mosquitoes are found.
The virus can also be transmitted through sex, from either a male or female partner who has been infected.
A few cases of apparent infection via blood transfusion have been reported.
A mother can pass the virus to her unborn fetus.
Current research indicates the greatest microcephaly risk is associated with infection during the first trimester of pregnancy, but health officials have warned an impact could be seen in later weeks.
Recent studies have shown evidence of Zika in amniotic fluid, placenta and fetal brain tissue.
HOW DO YOU TREAT ZIKA?
There is no treatment or vaccine for Zika infection.
Companies and scientists are racing to develop a safe and effective vaccine for Zika.
However, a preventative shot is not expected to be ready for widespread use for at least two or three years.
WHAT ARE THE DANGERS?
The CDC concluded that infection with the Zika virus in pregnant women is a cause of the birth defect microcephaly.
Microcephaly is a condition defined by unusually small heads that can result in developmental problems, and other severe brain abnormalities in babies.
The CDC said that since the causal relationship had been established, several important questions must still be answered with studies that could take years.
The World Health Organization in an updated assessment said the 'most likely explanation' is that Zika virus infection during pregnancy is a cause of congenital brain abnormalities including microcephaly.
Brazil recently reported 1,949 confirmed cases of microcephaly believed to be linked to Zika infections in pregnant women.
It is investigating more than 3,030 suspected cases of microcephaly.
The WHO also updated its guidelines to say the infection is a trigger of Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), a rare neurological disorder that can result in paralysis.
Its previous statement, based on a rapid assessment of evidence, said there was strong scientific consensus that Zika virus caused GBS, microcephaly and other neurological disorders.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
People infected with Zika may have a mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain and fatigue that can last for two to seven days.
But as many as 80 per cent of people infected never develop symptoms.
HOW CAN ZIKA BE CONTAINED?
Efforts to control the spread of the virus focus on eliminating mosquito breeding sites and taking precautions against mosquito bites such as using insect repellent and mosquito nets.
U.S. and international health officials have advised pregnant women to avoid travel to Latin American and Caribbean countries, sections of Miami, Florida in the United States and Singapore where they may be exposed to Zika.
They are also advising that men and women who have traveled to Zika outbreak areas use condoms or abstain from sex for six months to prevent sexual transmission of the virus.
HOW WIDESPREAD IS THE OUTBREAK?
Active Zika outbreaks have been reported in at least 59 countries or territories, most of them in the Americas, according to the CDC. Brazil has been the country most affected.
Africa: 1 country
Americas: 49 countries
Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Aruba, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Bonaire, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Curaçao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saba, Puerto Rico, Saint Barthelmy, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Eustatius, St. Maarten, St. Kitts and Nevis, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos, United States, U.S. Virgin Islands, Venezuela.
Asia: 1 country
Oceania/Pacific Islands: 8 countries
American Samoa, Fiji, Kosrae, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga.
HISTORY OF ZIKA
The Zika virus is found in tropical locales with large mosquito populations.
Outbreaks of Zika have been recorded in Africa, the Americas, Southern Asia and the Western Pacific.
The virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in rhesus monkeys and was first identified in people in 1952 in Uganda and Tanzania, according to the WHO.
ANY OTHER ZIKA-RELATED COMPLICATIONS?
Zika has also been associated with other neurological disorders, including serious brain and spinal cord infections.
The long-term health consequences of Zika infection are unclear.
Other uncertainties surround the incubation period of the virus and how Zika interacts with other viruses that are transmitted by mosquitoes, such as dengue.
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