5 Questions in the Wake of Iowa's First Zika Infection

Feb 23, 2016

The Iowa Department of Public Health confirmed the first confirmed infection of the Zika virus in Iowa Friday. Brad Blitvich, associate professor of Veterinary Science at Iowa State University, who studies mosquito-borne illnesses, joined host Ben Kieffer to discuss its implications.

Is this case a danger to other Iowans?

“It appears that the major mosquito species that transmits Zika virus is a mosquito known as Aedes Aegypti, and this mosquito species is found in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world so it’s very common throughout Latin America, but this particular mosquito species is not found in Iowa. It is found in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida so I suspect there will be Zika virus cases in those three states, but it will be extremely unlikely that they’ll be cases of Zika virus in Iowa as a result of mosquito bite.”     

How does this virus spread?

“It’s maintained in the human-mosquito transmission cycle, this virus. If this lady was bitten by an Aedes Aegypti mosquito, that mosquito could become infected. But luckily for us, that particular species is not found here in Iowa.”

What are the symptoms of Zika virus?

“Actually, 80% of people that become infected actually show no symptoms whatsoever, so they don’t even know their infected. In the other 20%, they get symptoms such as fever, rash, joint pain, muscle pain, and conjunctivitis. […] Really the big problem is the birth defects that are being reported, which Zika virus may be associated with.”

Where is the point of the research-sphere? What is most urgently in need of doing?

“Developing a vaccine is very important. That’s one of the main issues: developing a vaccine. Also, we do not completely understand which mosquito species transmit this virus, it appears to be Aedes Aegypti, but really we need to do experiments to confirm whether or not other species can have a minor role in the transmission of this virus.”

What do you see happening on a grand-scale?

“The virus will spread all throughout South America, Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico: pretty much everywhere where Aedes Aegypti is found, which unfortunately is a large chunk of the Americas.”