Zika virus concerns discussed in Gulfport

Zika virus concerns discussed in Gulfport
Thornton says the public should be be attentive and educated. (Photo source: WLOX News)
Thornton says the public should be be attentive and educated. (Photo source: WLOX News)

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Concern about the Zika virus is spreading quickly throughout the country, as well as Mississippi.

The virus is carried by mosquitoes, and flood waters along the Coast are creating hot beds for breeding.

According to Dr. Christy Thornton, Mississippians shouldn't be worried. Instead, she says the public should be attentive and educated.

"They should be concerned, and should take precautions," said Thornton.

As a district health officer with the Mississippi State Department of Health, Thornton knows that a mosquito-borne virus isn't something new to Mississippi. But, the Zika virus is a different story.

Although there are no confirmed cases in the state, the Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce held a meeting at the Knight Nonprofit Center to help answer questions about the virus.

"In general, Zika is a mild virus," said Thornton.

Common symptoms include rash, red eyes, joint pain and fever. There is a mild risk for a syndrome that could cause paralysis and difficulty breathing.

Harrison County Mosquito Control Director Raymond Cuevas says the breed of mosquito carrying Zika hasn't been seen in Mississippi since the 80s. However, people should be mindful of leaving standing water on their properties.

"[They should] check their backyards, check for old tires, any kind of containers. That's where mosquitoes breed," said Cuevas.

With the influx of floodwater, there could be new places for the pests to breed. Doctor Thornton added that women wanting to get pregnant, or who are already pregnant, are at risk and should still avoid areas known to have confirmed Zika cases.

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