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Zika virus is a disease transmitted by mosquitoes, and there is no indication that it can spread person to person through casual contact. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed the first U.S. case of Zika virus infection in a non-traveler in the continental United States after the person's sexual partner returned from an affected area and developed symptoms.
The disease has historically occurred in Africa, Southeast Asia and islands in the Pacific Ocean. In May 2015, Zika virus was found for the first time in the Western Hemisphere in northeastern Brazil. The virus has since spread through much of the Caribbean, Central America and South America. The CDC maintains an updated list of affected countries and territories as well as associated travel advisories.
Most people (80 percent) infected with Zika virus do not have any symptoms. Of those who do experience symptoms, they are usually mild and include fever, rash, joint pain or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other symptoms can include muscle pain and headache. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon. Despite these relatively mild symptoms, health officials are investigating a possible association between Zika virus infections in pregnant women and birth defects.
Zika virus in Ohio
On Feb. 9, the Ohio Department of Health reported Ohio’s first case of Zika virus in a returning traveler from Haiti, a 30-year-old Cuyahoga County woman, city of Cleveland. A second case, also from Haiti, but unrelated, has also been identified in Ohio. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 35 cases of Zika virus in 12 states and the District of Columbia prior to Ohio’s case.
The primary mosquito that transmits Zika virus is Aedes aegypti, the yellow fever mosquito. This mosquito is found in the tropics and southern United States. It is not established in Ohio. Aedes albopictus, the Asian tiger mosquito, may potentially transmit Zika virus in the United States, although it has not yet been implicated in the transmission of human cases. This mosquito has been identified in 37 Ohio counties and likely occurs in others. As a precaution, it is recommend that suspected cases of Zika avoid mosquito exposure for the week after symptom onset when mosquitoes are active in Ohio (May to October) in order to prevent the possibility that mosquitoes might become infected by biting an infected person and then transmitted the virus to other people.
Travel Advisory for Pregnant Women
Because of the possible association between Zika virus infections in pregnant women and certain birth defects, CDC recommends that pregnant women consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Women trying to become pregnant should consult with their healthcare professional before traveling to these areas and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the trip. More information on Zika virus infection and pregnancy is available on CDC's website.
What travelers should know about Zika virus
According to the CDC, there have been no reported cases of Zika virus disease transmission through mosquito bites in Ohio or anywhere else in the continental United States at this time. However, cases have been reported in travelers returning to the United States.
All people traveling to areas with Zika virus transmission should take precautions to prevent mosquito bites. These precautions include:
- Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Staying in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
- Sleeping under a mosquito bed net if outside and not able to protect against mosquito bites.
- Wearing Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. All EPA-registered insect repellents have been evaluated for effectiveness.Treating clothing and gear with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated items. Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings.
Always follow the product label instructions.
- Reapply repellent as instructed.
- Do not spray insect repellent underneath clothing.
- Apply sunscreen to skin first then insect repellent.
- Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months of age.
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