South Carolina health officials revealed Friday that they have confirmed the first travel-related case of Zika virus in the Palmetto State.
The state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) said the case was confirmed in a person who had recently traveled to a country experiencing active transmission of the virus. The agency said the individual did not have symptoms and was not contagious by the time they returned to the United States, meaning health officials do not think there is a public health risk in South Carolina.
DHEC is not releasing any more information about the individual or the case, citing patient confidentiality.
“We had expected to see a case appear in South Carolina eventually as more people vacation to countries where the Zika virus is actively spreading,” DHEC medical consultant Dr. Teresa Foo said in a statement. “As our state’s public health agency, we actively monitor for the arrival of new diseases in South Carolina in an effort to help stop the spread of the illness.”
Mosquitoes in South Carolina are not believed to transmit the Zika virus at this time. While the primary mosquito that can carry Zika virus, Aedes aegypti, is only found in small numbers in the Lowcountry, another possible carrier, Aedes albopictus, is more common. DHEC encourages all individuals, as a routine precaution, to protect themselves against mosquito bites, but emphasizes no mosquito-transmitted cases have yet been discovered stateside.
Most people infected with the Zika virus never show symptoms. When symptoms are present, the most common are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Usually, Zika symptoms are mild, yet last as long as one week. Of the more than 680 American cases identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week, only 17 required hospitalization. But it sometimes it can cause fatal complications. The CDC revealed Friday that a 70-year-old Puerto Rican man had died from an immune reaction to the virus, becoming the first American fatality.
But health officials recently realized Zika virus can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus, and infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly and other severe birth defects. The CDC recommends that all women who are pregnant should not travel to areas abroad where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.