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Virginia Resident Tests Positive for Zika Virus after Travel in Zika-Affected Country
RICHMOND – The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is alerting the public of the potential for contracting Zika virus while traveling abroad. Zika virus is spread to people through mosquito bites. Although Zika virus illness is usually mild, and severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises there is a possible association between Zika virus infection in pregnant women and subsequent birth defects.
The Virginia Department of Health has confirmed Zika virus infection (via laboratory testing provided through the CDC) in an adult resident of Virginia who recently traveled to a country where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. This is the first reported, laboratory-confirmed case in a traveler returning to Virginia, sometimes referred to as an “imported” case. Zika virus infection in this individual serves as a reminder that people in Virginia can acquire the disease during travel to countries where Zika virus transmission is occurring.
“Zika virus is acquired through the bite of an infected mosquito. Because it is not mosquito season in Virginia, this individual with Zika virus infection poses no risk to other Virginians,” said State Health Commissioner Marissa J. Levine, MD, MPH, FAAFP. “However, this is the time of year when more people do travel to warmer climates and countries where Zika virus is found. Pregnant women are strongly encouraged to consider postponing travel to Zika-affected countries while pregnant. In addition, we are urging everyone, especially pregnant women, to check health travel advisories before leaving the United States and to take preventive measures when traveling in affected areas of the world.”
The CDC issued a travel alert (Level 2-Practice Enhanced Precautions) for people traveling to regions and certain countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. This alert follows reports in Brazil of an increase in the number of infants born with unusually small heads and other poor pregnancy outcomes during a time of increased Zika virus activity. The association between Zika virus and birth defects has not been firmly established and is being investigated further.
The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Symptoms can last from several days to a week. There is no vaccine to prevent and no medicine to treat Zika virus infection.
When traveling to countries where Zika virus has been reported, all travelers should take steps to prevent mosquito bites, such as using use insect repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants, and staying in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens. More information about Zika virus can be found on the CDC website.