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Zika cases in state rises to five

The fourth and fifth travel-related cases of the Zika virus have been confirmed in Alabama, according to a press release from the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH).

The Zika virus is spread through infected mosquitoes and while its symptoms are mild, if even present, it has been shown to cause severe birth defects if contracted while pregnant. The World Health Organization has declared it a public health emergency.

Unlike the first three cases, which had to be sent to the CDC for testing, these two cases were able to be tested at clinical laboratories in Montgomery.

Dr. Jim McVay, director of the Bureau for Health Promotion at the ADPH, said the ability to test for the disease more quickly has enhanced the department’s ability to protect Alabama residents.

“The first three cases had to be sent to the CDC because there was nowhere to test it here,” he said. “They had so many tests they had to do up there, it took six weeks to get back. The Zika virus only lives about a week in the body, so by that time there wasn’t much we could do.

“Now that it’s able to be tested in Montgomery, we can get results back in a week.”

The ADPH is following up with the infected residents by getting the names of their household and sexual contacts. These contacts will be asked if they have Zika symptoms and will be requested to use insect repellent to prevent further possible transmission of the disease.

McVay said health officials will inspect their homes to makes sure sources of standing water, where mosquitoes lay their eggs, are eliminated to keep the chance of transmission as low as possible.

The ADPH is advising for all Alabama residents to check their homes to get rid of mosquito breeding grounds, and to take precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites.

Some of those tips are:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Use EPA-approved insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemoneucalyptus, or IR3535 as directed.
  • Stay and sleep in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms.