LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - Concerns are rising in Southwest Oklahoma and all across America after there were new developments this week regarding the spread of the Zika Virus.
Health officials have announced that the species of mosquito that primarily carries the Zika virus was found in Altus. While those mosquitoes in Altus are not carrying the disease, four people in Florida were diagnosed with the virus as a result of mosquito bites. This marks the first domestic cases of transmission.
Health officials say, at least for right now, there is not need to worry about getting the Zika virus from a mosquito bite. However, there have been thirteen confirmed cases of the Zika virus in Oklahoma. You can contract the disease through sexual contact or if you're bitten by a mosquito while traveling internationally.
So far, no one in Southwest Oklahoma has contracted the Zika virus. The Comanche County Health Department says they are actually more worried about a different mosquito-borne disease.
"We just want to make sure everyone stays safe and healthy. Really, we encourage to protect against West Nile virus. Avoid going outside when mosquitoes are more active, near dusk and dawn. That type of mosquito carries the West Nile and prevent yourself from being bitten. It doesn't feel good and, of course, we want to encourage safety," said Sarah Lambaria, a health educator at Comanche County Health Department.
Lambaria says right now West Nile is a much bigger concern that Zika. She says taking the right steps can help prevent you from catching either.
"The main message is to protect against bites, and protect your property. That means wearing an insect repellent approved by the EPA that has an active ingredient, and use it according to the instructions," Lambaria said.
Lambaria says insect repellent can drastically help you when you are out and about. There are also other measures you can take to help prevent mosquito attacks at home, like removing standing water. Lambaria says there are a few other things to do as well.
"Repairing screen doors, any broken windows. People don't think about pet bowls outside; you want to refill those daily. Scrub down bird baths weekly. Clean your gutters. Make sure there are no standing leaves. Long grass is where mosquitoes like to hang out," Lambaria said.
Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole issued a statement today in regards to the Zika virus cases in Florida.
"The news is an alarming sign that Zika has started to seriously make its way to the United States... We cannot simply stand by and let this virus stand when we know we have the resources readily available," Cole said.
The House of Representatives has provided more than $1.1 billion dollars for the Zika virus response efforts, but it has yet to pass in the Senate. According to the C-D-C, more than 50 countries are now confirmed to have patients with the Zika Virus.