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‘Prevention is key;’ Richmond gears up to fight off Zika virus

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RICHMOND, Va. –  At a press conference Friday, health officials and Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones urged resident to be aware of the threat posed by the Zika virus.

The virus is most commonly transmitted through mosquitos, and given Central Virginia’s humid climate, Richmond ranks within the top 50 of cities most at risk of transmission.

But a recent poll revealed that Americans don’t know much about the Zika virus — a disease that many South American countries believe is a serious threat.

With mosquito season underway, the Department of Health created a website to help inform the public, hoping to prevent the spread of the disease this spring and summer.

There are currently a reported 472 cases in the nation, with three here in central Virginia. However, officials said that thus far all cases have been imported.

To prevent the spread of the virus, experts said to remember to dump standing water, because mosquitos breed in shallow pools of water.

Citizens are encouraged to protect themselves from mosquito bites,  and use a mosquito control program if needed.

The experts also suggest using screen doors to help keep the bugs outside.

“We'll be working in a coordinated fashion to get the word out to educate and inform the public on what they need to do,” said Mayor Jones.

The response time for diagnosing Zika virus has improved, and results can be obtained in five days.

The greatest threat is to pregnant women, officials said.

“Zika is not a very severe disease for most of us but we need take on the collective responsibility for our community,” Dr. Danny Avula, Director, Richmond City Health District, said.

The West Nile virus threat still looms, another reason for residents to follow the suggested guidelines.

Avula said the average person usually develops a fever, some muscle aches, and inflammation of the eye tissue, if bitten by a Yellow Fever or Asian Tiger mosquitos carrying the Zika virus.