JACKSON, Miss. – Today the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) reports its first case of Zika virus. The case was in a Madison County resident who recently traveled to Haiti.
Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that may cause devastating birth defects if contracted during pregnancy. Zika virus infection can cause a mild illness with symptoms (fever, joint pain, conjunctivitis or rash) lasting for several days to a week, but 80 percent of those infected show no symptoms at all. Death is very rare.
Zika has been seen in parts of Africa, Southeast Asia, and some Pacific islands for years, but has recently been reported in approximately 30 countries, mostly in the Caribbean, Central, and South America. The Zika virus is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. The breed of mosquito that is spreading Zika – Aedes Aegypti – has not been detected in Mississippi since the mid-eighties. The MSDH is currently conducting surveillance on all mosquito populations in the state.
Pregnant women or women who may get pregnant in the near future should avoid travel to countries with Zika transmission. Pregnant women should avoid sexual contact – or only have protected sex using a condom – with any male who has recently returned from a country with Zika virus. These precautions should continue for the duration of the pregnancy. So far, six cases have been confirmed from sex between an infected male and his female partner.
“Pregnant women should avoid travel to these countries,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Dobbs. “At this time, the mosquito spreading Zika in Mexico, South America and the Caribbean is not known to be present in Mississippi.”
“Three U.S. territories and 36 other states have already reported travel-associated cases,” Dobbs said. “With late spring and summer approaching, we know it is a popular time for mission trips and vacations to these areas. Please be especially mindful of protecting yourself from mosquitoes while you’re abroad. Simple steps can make a big difference.”
The MSDH advises that precautions should be taken by all travelers to countries with Zika outbreaks. Precautions for travelers include basic protective measures against mosquito-borne illnesses such as using a recommended mosquito repellent that contains DEET while you are outdoors, avoiding areas where mosquitoes are prevalent, and wearing loose, light-colored clothing to cover the arms and legs when outdoors during the day or night. Travelers recently returning from countries with ongoing Zika transmission should take special precautions to avoid mosquito bites in Mississippi to avoid transmitting the virus to local mosquitoes.
There are no available treatments or vaccines for Zika virus.
“The MSDH is working with medical partners across the state to ensure that the most current national guidelines for preventing and testing for Zika are being followed,” said Dr. Dobbs. “The MSDH Public Health Laboratory now has the ability to test for Zika in-house to allow for rapid turnaround and high volume testing should the need arise.”
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