Friday, June 1 marks another milestone: 31 states have begun circulating an updated version of the revised CDC’s guidelines for contacting household contacts or caretakers who may have come into contact with a case of Zika virus before symptoms appear. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have not yet begun. Here are four reasons why so many people in certain states are still ignoring the CDC’s guidance:
1. Most of the 39 U.S. states that are on or near Zika-infected areas aren’t required to follow the update, especially in states that have not yet begun distributing the updated guidance: Hawaii, California, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Most of these states didn’t receive the initial CDC guidance; instead, states that are within the affected areas were contacted directly by the CDC, and then asked to provide the information contained in the updated guidelines. As a result, the CDC published guidance on each of these states’ websites, and some states sent surveys to their members of Congress, asking for their support to begin distributing the updated guidance.
2. Zikapocalypse in Texas and Louisiana: About 7,500 Americans have been infected with Zika since Zika was first identified in Brazil in 2015. More than 2,500 were infected in Texas and another 1,400 in Louisiana. The disease is spreading in the northern part of the state of Texas and continues to do so in Louisiana, which has already hit its yearly goal of 4,000 cases. While the CDC says that all instances of infection in those states are “almost all due to travel,” it is advising against leisure travel there, as well as some other destinations.
3. The virus isn’t as bad as it used to be: In Texas and Louisiana, the number of newly diagnosed cases of Zika has almost stopped increasing. For the past four years, the number of cases of Zika infection reported each year increased in Texas, but since March of this year, the numbers have dropped. The reason, researchers say, is that the virus is no longer effectively transmitted through mosquitoes. Additionally, the new CDC guidelines recommend that Americans in areas of high-risk for mosquito bites take steps to prevent mosquito bites, such as wearing pants and long sleeves and cleaning up areas where mosquitoes breed.
4. Some Americans fear that Zika is back (and worse): In March, reports emerged that mosquitoes had been found to carry Zika in Maryland, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Washington, and that, in addition to infecting people, the mosquitoes were thriving in parts of New York City. Furthermore, residents in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, have been reporting that mosquitoes are more active during the summer than last year, and that locally transmitted cases of Zika could pop up in their area.
Further complicating matters is that the potential threat of Zika in some locations this year has heightened the panic of some Americans. A February report out of the State University of New York at Geneseo revealed that 1,774 Ohio residents had reported symptoms of Zika, but a majority had negative symptoms, such as a rash, fever, or joint pain, and most had not sought medical attention. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the opposite is true in areas where Zika is becoming more common: the majority of cases of microcephaly in Puerto Rico reported by the CDC involve infants whose mothers became ill with Zika while pregnant. And several scientific articles have raised the possibility that Zika could cause rashes, red rashes, muscle aches, joint pain, and conjunctivitis, which can be similar to pinkeye, even in adults. Even with this evidence to the contrary, though, many Americans are still extremely concerned about Zika.