State health officials say the first confirmed case of Zika virus in a South Carolina resident is a reminder that the mosquito-born virus still looms as summer approaches.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) said last week this particular case is an individual who was infected and became sick while abroad. The agency said the patient was no longer contagious by the time they returned stateside and are no longer contagious.
Zika primarily spreads primarily through an infected Aedes-species mosquitoes. Most people infected with Zika never show symptoms, but the minority who do usually suffer mild fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes) for about a week. Death is rare and usually caused by complications from other immune issues.
But the virus has been linked to a recent Latin American outbreak of microcephaly and other birth defects in infants born to women who have the virus.
There are no known cases of the virus being transmitted by mosquitoes in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However the agency is urging pregnant women or couples trying to get pregnant to avoid travel to areas where Zika is being actively transmitted. Men who may have been exposed are also urged to use condoms or abstaining from sex after traveling to those areas, even if not showing symptoms.
“People should be aware, especially if they’re traveling to foreign countries,” DHEC medical consultant Teresa Foo told South Carolina Radio Network.
DHEC spokeswoman Jennifer Read said the CDC is warning state health agencies to prepare for the distinct possibility that the virus could even spread to clusters in the United States this summer. The two species of mosquitoes that carry the virus are found across the entire state of South Carolina, although no cases have been reported yet.
“It’s something that definitely we want all of our community partners, as well as us at the state, to be prepared for, just in case,” DHEC spokeswoman Jennifer Read said. “It’s never too early to prepare.
Zika has been identified as a distinct virus since the 1940s. However, health officials considered it a relatively minor disease until an outbreak in Brazil last year was blamed for more than 2,500 birth defects at a rate well above average. The virus has since been reported across most of Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean. CDC officials believe it is possible the virus could be transmitted in the US this summer