The Mississippi Delta is the area with the highest risk of Zika transmission, according to research from St Louis University.

A new map has revealed that counties in the southeast and those that border the end of the Mississippi River are predicted to spread the virus at high rates. 

Broward Country in Florida, where Fort Lauderdale is located, and Washington County in Louisiana were labeled among the highest at risk with a 100 percent likelihood of transmission.

Counties along the Mississippi Delta and in the general southeast area were predicted to pose the highest risk for Zika transmission, a new map has revealed

Counties along the Mississippi Delta and in the general southeast area were predicted to pose the highest risk for Zika transmission, a new map has revealed

While the bulls-eye was placed on the ‘most Southern place on Earth’ to be at the height of the spread, the Atlantic coast going as north as New Jersey, and even a few counties, in California also posed a risk.

Even with the hazard, St Louis University researchers say its purpose was not to create ‘unwarranted alarm’.

‘The purpose of this study was…to enhance Zika prevention methods such as mosquito control, effective prevention message dissemination, and treatment and care preparation, in advance of a Zika epidemic in the contiguous US,’ said lead author Dr Enbal Shacham, an associate professor of behavioral sciences and health education at Saint Louis University.

‘We need significant planning and prevention in areas and populations most likely to experience the highest burdens from Zika infection. 

‘Timely strategies to communicate risk, control mosquito populations, and prevent disease transmission are imperative to preventing a large-scale Zika epidemic in the United States.’

MEN IN FLORIDA COUNTIES TOLD TO NOT DONATE SPERM 

Men from three Florida counties shouldn’t donate sperm because of a small risk of spreading Zika, US health officials said this month.

The guidance had previously applied to just Miami-Dade County, the only place in Florida where there’s evidence the virus was spread by mosquitoes.

But infections were reported in people in South Florida who couldn’t clearly be linked to Miami-Dade.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the advice should extend to two counties north of Miami – Broward and Palm Beach. 

Last August, scientists discovered that Zika can survive in sperm for up to six months.

Until then, it was believed the virus would fade after three months.

But guidelines changed when an Italian man tested positive for Zika 188 days after he was first infected.

Another man tested positive 181 days after being diagnosed with the infection. 

The Zika virus poses the most serious threat to unborn babies whose mothers contract it during pregnancy.

They can die or develop devastating birth defects, such as severe microcephaly where the skull has partially collapsed and the brain cannot develop properly.

Dr Shacham and her colleagues studied more than 3,100 US counties and determined more than 500 ‘high risk’ areas for Zika transmission based on several factors.

These included the presence of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, known to carry several diseases; high rates of sexually transmitted infections, which is an established surrogate marker for unprotected sex; the number of women of child-bearing age; and an estimate of birth rates for each county.

‘Recent reports suggest that the Zika virus can survive within semen for significant amounts of time and, thus, the sexual transmission route of infection may be significantly underestimated,’ Dr Shacham said.

‘The sexually transmitted route is also concerning because sexually transmitted infections tend to cluster geographically and occur disproportionately in areas with higher concentrated disadvantage.’ 

Approximately 80 percent of those who contract Zika have no symptoms, such as a mild fever or a rash, meaning they could engage in sexual activity not knowing they’re infected. 

It is unclear if sexual transmission of Zika occurs 100 percent of the time, so the researchers projected three different models of transmission risk: 70, 85, and 100 percent risk based on the data-driven model.

Even at a rate of 70 percent transmission through sex, the predicted number of mainland US residents in high-risk counties infected by the virus was found to be between 300,000 to 41.7 million people, with between 3,700 and 632,000 being pregnant women.

‘Our results also show that complications from the Zika virus are likely to overlap with impoverished counties with large minority populations where resources are more likely to be scarce to combat a large-scale Zika virus outbreak,’ Dr Shacham said.

She also suggested developing intensive interventions to prevent infection as well as treatment and care plans for families with affected newborns in higher risk areas.

Dr Shacham added: ‘Enhanced vector control, Zika surveillance, and clinical management in these higher-risk areas will be critical for reducing the impact of a sustained Zika virus outbreak that may potentially occur particularly among economically challenged populations and communities that are least equipped to handle an outbreak.’

MIAMI ZIKA OUTBREAK OF 2016 

Last year, Miami experienced an outbreak of Zika virus. 

Florida reported a total of 164 cases of Zika caused by local mosquito transmission, including 19 people who were infected in the state but live elsewhere. 

There are also five cases in which it was not clear whether transmission occurred in Florida or elsewhere.

Starting in late July, state health officials had identified four zones in the Miami area where the virus was spreading through local mosquitoes – the first of such transmissions in the continental US. 

Miami-Dade County was also the only place in Florida where there’s evidence the virus was spread by mosquitoes.

As of December, the state lifted the infection zone on Miami Beach. The CDC also lifted a warning for pregnant women to stay out of the South Beach zone altogether, but the agency still urges them to consider postponing nonessential travel to Miami-Dade County. 

Zika testing is recommended for all pregnant women and their partners if they’ve traveled to Miami-Dade County since August 1. 

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