Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Two Pennsylvania Residents Test Positive for the Zika Virus

The Pennsylvania Department of Health announced Tuesday ,the first confirmed cases of Zika virus in two residents who recently traveled to countries affected by the ongoing outbreak of the disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) laboratories confirmed the illnesses in two female Pennsylvania residents. The department will not provide additional details about the cases to protect the privacy of the individuals.

“While we are concerned about the health of these individuals and any Pennsylvanian who may be exposed to Zika virus, we want to emphasize that these cases pose no threat to the public,” said Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy. “We will continue to provide updated Zika guidance to health care professionals across the commonwealth to ensure they are aware of the symptoms associated with the disease and the protocols that should be followed to ensure testing of potentially infected individuals, if needed.”

The current Zika outbreak began in May 2015 and is occurring in many countries. Zika is a generally mild illness that is spread primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito. In rare cases it has been known to also spread from mother to child, as well as through blood transfusion. Sexual transmission of Zika virus is possible, and men who have traveled to affected areas should take steps to prevent the spread of Zika virus through sexual contact.

Concern about the virus was elevated following reports of increased cases of a serious birth defect known as microcephaly that may be associated with Zika virus infection among pregnant women.

The majority of individuals infected with the Zika virus have no symptoms. When symptoms occur, they are usually mild and last for between two and seven days and include:
  • Fever;
  • Rash;
  • Muscle/joint pain;
  • Conjunctivitis (red eyes); and
  • Headache.
No vaccine or medications are yet available to prevent or treat Zika virus. Symptoms are treated with plenty of rest, fluids and medicine to relieve fever and pain. Severe illness requiring hospitalization is uncommon, and deaths from Zika virus are rare.

Until more is known, the CDC recommends that all pregnant women consider postponing travel to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant and must travel to these areas should first consult with their health care provider and take extra care to protect themselves from mosquito bites when traveling to an area known to have Zika.

The best way to prevent Zika is to protect against mosquito bites when traveling to an affected area by:

Using an insect repellent containing DEET;
  • Wearing light-colored clothes that cover as much of the body as possible;
  • Using physical barriers such as screens, closed doors and windows, and;
  • Sleeping under mosquito nets.

If you develop symptoms within two weeks of visiting a Zika-affected country, contact your health care provider.

Visit www.health.pa.gov for more Zika virus information.