Today, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced the first case of Zika virus infection in a North Carolina resident. The case was confirmed in an adult person who has recently traveled to a country with ongoing Zika virus transmission. The patients’ symptoms have resolved. To protect patient confidentiality no additional details on this patient will be provided.
“As long as the outbreak continues in Central and South America and the Caribbean, we expect to see more travel-related Zika virus infections in our state," said Randall Williams, MD, State Health Director. "While travel-related cases don’t present a public health threat to North Carolina, we always actively monitor emerging global situations and adjust resources to meet needs.”
At this time, no cases of the disease are known to have been acquired in North Carolina or elsewhere in the continental United States, with the exception of one infection in Texas attributed to sexual transmission. As of Feb. 18, 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported travel-related Zika virus infections in 21 other states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“We have anticipated all along that travel-related cases would be identified in North Carolina,” said Megan Davies, MD, State Epidemiologist. “We want to take this opportunity to reinforce that travelers to any of the countries with active Zika transmission should follow precautions to minimize their exposure to mosquito bites.”
Zika virus is transmitted through the bite of an infectious mosquito, although cases of transmission through sexual contact and blood transfusion have also been reported. Symptoms can include rash, red eyes, fever and joint pain. Only about one in five people infected with Zika virus will show symptoms.
A pregnant woman infected with Zika virus can pass the virus to her unborn baby. A serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly and other adverse pregnancy outcomes have been reported in some infants born to mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant. State health officials are in constant communication with local health departments to work with health providers, including obstetricians and gynecologists, to ensure they have the latest information, as well as access to guidance and testing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a travel advisory recommending pregnant women consider postponing travel to any area with active Zika virus transmission. Women who are trying to become pregnant should talk to their doctors about the risk of Zika virus infection before traveling.
While the primary mosquitoes that carry Zika virus are not believed to be widespread in North Carolina, individuals are always encouraged, as a routine precaution, to take steps to prevent mosquito bites. Travelers can protect themselves by:
- Wearing insect repellent registered with the Environmental Protection Agency.
- Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants.
- Using air conditioning or make sure window and door screens are in place.