OLYMPIA — The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed the first case of Zika Virus in Washington state.
According to a press release from the Washington Department of Health, a Mason County man in his 20s, visited a Thurston County hospital when he got sick, following a trip to the South Pacific.
Zika Virus has recently made international headlines for its suspected link to serious pregnancy-related health problems in areas where the illness is common.
The virus is spread by a species of mosquito that lives in tropical and subtropical climates, especially in the Caribbean and South and Central America.
“The good news is this virus spreads through the bite of a type of mosquito we don’t have in Washington state, so it is very unlikely that this virus would spread widely here,” Dr. Scott Lindquist, a DOH state epidemiologist said in the press release.
Lindquist said that with many students and charity and church groups planning spring trips abroad, the U.S. could see a spike in the number of cases over the coming months.
According to DOH, symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes that last from a few days to a week. There is no vaccine for Zika, and no specific medical treatment for people who are infected, but in healthy people, the illness is almost always very mild. In fact, only about one in five people will have any symptoms at all, according to DOH.
However, Zika is still very dangerous for pregnant women, because there is growing evidence that is causes microcephaly, a condition where an infant’s head is smaller than normal. According to DOH, Microcephaly can cause “a variety of other health challenges” including a-typical physical and language development, seizures, hyperactivity, coordination problems and other brain/neurological disorders.
Health officials say anyone who experiences possible symptoms of Zika after visiting an affected area should see a doctor. Women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant should consider delaying travel to Zika-affected areas, or be especially careful to avoid mosquito bites.
All people who travel to affected areas should protect themselves by wearing pants and long-sleeved shirts and closed-toes shoes, using appropriate insect-repellants, avoiding products with fragrances that might attract mosquitoes and using mosquito nets. The mosquitoes that transmit Zika virus are daytime biters, so it is important to apply prevention measures during the day as well as during the evening hours, the press release said.
For more information visit the CDC Zika page: www.cdc.gov/zika/