EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH, LA (WAFB) - A new case of the Zika virus reported in Dallas is the first case to be transmitted on U.S. soil. While health officials believe this case was sexually transmitted, mosquito experts in East Baton Rouge Parish are prepared to act if the virus spreads.
Fears over the Zika virus are growing worldwide.
"The lack of vaccines and reliable diagnostic tests and the absence of population immunity in newly-affected countries were cited as further causes for concern," said Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Discovered in 1947, the Zika virus only recently became the focus of health headlines after outbreaks in the Caribbean and parts of South and Central America. WHO declared the outbreaks an international emergency due to growing evidence that the virus could be especially dangerous for pregnant women, possibly causing birth defects by stunting brain development in babies.
While there is no outbreak in the U.S., travelers have brought the disease back home, stirring worry.
However, local mosquito experts say controlling the population that carries the virus is nothing new.
"We're already ready to deal with that mosquito. Now, there's no vaccine currently available for Zika virus so people will have to rely, at least for a few years, on controlling the mosquitoes," said East Baton Rouge Mosquito Abatement assistant director Randy Vaeth.
There are two species of mosquitoes that carry Zika that are also found in Louisiana, the yellow fever mosquito and the Asian tiger mosquitoes. Vaeth said the first species is not common in the Baton Rouge area. However, the Asian tiger is a frequent nuisance during the summer.
Vaeth said the good news is the Asian tiger mosquito is easily targeted. He also does not believe Zika will become an issue for South Louisiana.
However, other diseases like West Nile virus are still very active. That's why he said it's important to follow the familiar summer time drill of using repellant and wearing long sleeves and pants to avoid bites. He added that emptying all standing water near people's homes will help prevent the spread of all mosquito borne viruses.
"If you're concerned that you have mosquitoes, call us. We'll come out, we'll do an inspection and we'll treat your property if necessary," said Vaeth.
EBR Mosquito abatement can be reached at (225) 356-3297. Residents can also learn more about controlling mosquitoes during a community awareness day hosted by the EBR Mosquito Abatement and Rodent Control on March 19 in Downtown Baton Rouge on the River Front.