Confirmation of first imported Zika infection

According to a January 26th, 2016 Virginia Department of Health Infectious Disease Update on Zika Virus, Influenza, and Norovirus, sent out via email to medical professionals,  Virginia "received confirmation of a first imported case of Zika virus infection." In the email, the VDH urged healthcare practitioners to be informed of the potential threat to patients, especially to women who are pregnant.

Zika virus is a mosquito-borne virus. Its primary transmission has been through the bite of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. Theses mosquitoes also spread chikungunya and dengue.

Though much more rare, according to the CDC website, the disease can also be transmitted through sexual contact, through infected blood, to a child in the womb, or a newborn around the time of birth.

Who's at risk?

Travelers: Because Zika is found in the Americas, anyone traveling to Central and South America where mosquitoes are active is especially susceptible. Although the CDC's "Reported Active Transmissions" map does not include the United States, there have been documented cases of transmission. Additionally, it's possible that a mosquito in the United States could bite an infected individual and then transmit that disease on to a new victim. 

Pregnant Women: Pregnant women are especially at risk due to the potential to transmit the virus to her unborn or to the newborn child around the time of birth.

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Studies in 2015 provided data potentially connecting Zika virus and infants who were born with microcephaly. Fetal transmission have been documented in all trimesters of pregnancy.

Sexual Partners of Infected Persons: It was already known that the Zika virus could be transmitted sexually. With the recent case of sexual transmission, a new level of concern has been added to those monitoring its spread. If you or your partner have traveled to an area of active transmission and have been bitten by any mosquitoes, you should be monitored. 

What are the symptoms?

It's estimated that approximately 80% of people who are infected show no symptoms. For those who do display symptoms, they are likely to manifest within a few days to a week. According to the Virginia Department of Health, the symptoms are "generally mild and characterized by acute onset of fever, maculopapular rash, joint pain, or nonpurulent (no pus) conjunctivitis. These symptoms will typically last from several days to one week. Anyone at risk who has potentially been exposed to the Zika virus should be tested if they display two or more symptoms.

What can you do to protect yourself and your family?

Prior to Traveling: Check the CDC's website for any Travel advisories. If you're pregnant or think you might be, consider traveling to lower risk areas to protect yourself and the health of your unborn child.

While Traveling: Wear long sleeve clothing, long pants, and use mosquito repellents per manufacturer directions in areas where mosquitoes are active. Check bedroom windows to assure that mosquitoes cannot enter through improperly fitting screens. Try to sleep in air-conditioned rooms with closed windows or sleep under mosquito netting.

Upon Return: Watch for symptoms, even if you don't believe you were exposed. If you become symptomatic within two weeks of return, seek medical attention and inform your health provider of your potential for infection. It's recommended that even non-symptomatic women who are pregnant and have traveled to areas of transmission "receive fetal ultrasound to detect microcephaly or intracranial calcifications." (VDH)