Zika virus cases reported in United States

Published 8:59 am Thursday, February 11, 2016

With the recent discovery of the Zika virus, many questions have arisen regarding the likelihood of it appearing in Alabama.

As of Tuesday, the only reported cases have appeared in Texas and Georgia, with both cases being travel-acquired.

However, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) released a statement yesterday notifying Alabama residents that the first documented case of the travel-acquired Zika virus has been located in Morgan County. According to a press release issued by the ADPH yesterday morning, tests are being conducted from Alabama resident specimens with a travel history to areas where Zika virus outbreaks are ongoing. In addition to the one positive, there has been one negative result and four test results are pending.

Email newsletter signup

In order to help the public keep track of the status of Zika within the state, ADPH will provide regular updates each Monday that include total numbers of test samples submitted, the number with results pending, and number of positive results for Alabama residents at adph.org, search Zika. Results are currently being returned in about 14 days.

Also in the press release, Acting State Health Officer Dr. Tom Miller was quoted saying, “We knew it was only a matter of time before we would have the first positive case of an individual in Alabama with Zika virus.” “Given the frequency of international travel to affected areas, we anticipate having additional positive cases. We are working with the medical community to identify high-risk individuals,” Miller said.

Jessica Bowman, infection control nurse at Crenshaw Community Hospital, stated that as of Tuesday, there were only 35 travel-associated Zika virus cases in the United States.

“The main thing we want to pay attention to with the Zika virus is pregnant women, especially the ones traveling to the affected areas. Especially watch out for mosquito bites. It is mainly transmitted through mosquito bites,” said Bowman.

The Zika virus is primarily spread through the bite of the Aedes species mosquito, according to ADPH’s website. This mosquito type is also linked to the spread of the dengue and chikungunya viruses.

If transmitted to a pregnant woman, the Zika virus can potentially cause birth defects such as microcephaly, which is a congenital condition causing abnormal smallness of the head and incomplete brain development.

Many of the cases currently reported have been acquired through the bite of an infected mosquito. However, a sexually transmitted case was recently reported in Texas in which an already travel-acquired Zika virus patient spread it to a partner.

With the virus mainly being transferred by the bite of mosquitoes, the ADPH advises pregnant women to postpone any travel to areas where the virus can be acquired, such as tropical Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.

Some of the symptoms of the virus are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Treatment for the symptoms is currently supportive as there is no known vaccine yet.

If patients are admitted into the hospital with Zika-like symptoms, further testing is done and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with either confirm or deny the case.

Bowman is confident that the residents of Crenshaw County have nothing to fear at this time since the only reported cases of the Zika virus have been acquired by traveling to infected areas.

“As far as an outbreak, there’s not a very high likely chance that we’re going to get that right now. If we have a patient that comes in and tests positive, we would treat them,” said Bowman. “With this being mainly overseas, I really don’t think there would be an outbreak in Crenshaw County unless you have a bunch of people traveling from Africa, South East Asia or the Pacific Islands.”