JACKSON, Miss. – Today the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) reports its third case of Zika virus. The case was in an Oktibbeha County resident who recently traveled to Haiti.
Two cases have previously been reported in one Madison County and one Noxubee County resident who had both traveled to Haiti.
Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that may cause serious 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 have mild symptoms or 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 breed of mosquito that is spreading Zika – Aedes aegypti – has not been detected in Mississippi since the mid-1980s. 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 not 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.
“Pregnant women should not be traveling 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. All of the cases reported in the United States so far are related to international travel.”
“At least 42 other U.S. states and territories 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. Precautions should continue for three weeks. There are no available treatments or vaccines for Zika virus.
Cleaning up standing water around the home is an advisable activity to prevent multiple mosquito borne viruses, but returning travelers should not perform this activity in order to avoid local mosquito exposure.
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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