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Appalachia Health News tells the story of our health challenges and how we overcome them throughout the region. 

State Health Officials Confirm First Case of West Virginian with Zika Virus

Zika Virus, Mosquito
Rafaelgilo
/
wikimedia Commons
Zika is spread by the Aedes aegyptie mosquito.

State health officials have confirmed the first case of a West Virginian with the Zika Virus.

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Bureau for Public Health received laboratory confirmation Thursday, March 10, of the state’s first case of the virus.

Bureau for Public Health Commissioner Dr. Rahul Gupta says the confirmed case involves an adult male and resident of Clay County who traveled to Haiti.  He is no longer exhibiting symptoms and has made a full recovery, according to a news release.

“With the number of Zika outbreaks occurring in many parts of the world where West Virginians travel for vacation, business or mission work, the likelihood of a finding a Zika case in our state was foreseeable,” said Dr. Gupta in statement released Thursday.

The Bureau for Public Health says there has been no local transmission of disease reported in the United States.  Cases in the U.S. have only been found in return travelers who were bitten by the infected mosquito while traveling abroad. 

"With the number of Zika outbreaks occurring in many parts of the world where West Virginians travel for vacation, business or mission work, the likelihood of a finding a Zika case in our state was foreseeable."-Dr. Rahul Gupta

In February, a woman from Belmont County, Ohio visited her general practitioner in Ohio County, West Virginia after returning from a mission trip to Haiti. The woman had developed flu-like symptoms and her doctor sent blood samples to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. The woman from Ohio was suspected to have the Zika virus in her blood, according to officials with the Belmont County Health Department. She has since recovered without complications.  

According to the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health, concern surrounding the Zika virus is focused on pregnant women who could have babies with microcephaly, a neurodevelopmental disorder, where an infant’s head is significantly smaller than children of the same age.  State health officials are asking residents who are concerned that they may be infected with the Zika virus to contact their healthcare provider if they develop the symptoms described above following a visit to an area overseas where Zika is found. 

Health officials say Zika virus is not circulating in West Virginia.

“It’s important to remember that four out of five persons who have the Zika virus experience no symptoms at all, and of those who do experience symptoms they are usually mild and recover fully,” said Dr. Gupta. 

“However, if you are pregnant or are considering becoming pregnant around the time you will be traveling to parts of the world where Zika virus is occurring, you should consider postponing trips to those areas at this time.  Other travelers should be vigilant in taking appropriate mosquito bite preventive actions such as using repellents and wearing pants and long sleeves,” he added.

 Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito.  For those who become ill, the most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. 

The West Virginia Department of Hwalth and Human Resources says, as part of preparations for the state’s first case of Zika virus, BPH has been working with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal partners to monitor Zika virus testing and guidance to ensure health care providers and local health departments have the appropriate information. 

Appalachia Helth News

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Benedum Foundation.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story said that a woman from Belmont County, Ohio had been confirmed to have had the Zika Virus. As of Thursday, the case was considered confirmed by the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department. On Friday, the woman's Zika diagnosis has been classified as "suspect" by both the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department and the Belmont County Health Department. 


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