First Zika virus case confirmed in North Carolina

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Zika case confirmed in NC (WTVD)

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said Friday that a state resident who has recently travelled outside of the country has been confirmed to have the Zika virus.

It's the first confirmed case of Zika in North Carolina. Officials said the person was in a country where there is active Zika virus transmission.

It gave no details on the identity of the patient or where the person lives in North Carolina citing privacy rules.

"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 in a statement with the announcement. "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."

Scientists suspect an outbreak of the Zika virus is behind a surge in a rare birth defect in Brazil. It began after Brazilian doctors noticed an increase last fall in babies with a birth defect called microcephaly, which has a number of causes. The cases closely followed the country's first outbreak of the tropical virus Zika, which was thought to cause no more than a mild illness that clears up in a week.

In this Dec. 23, 2015 photo, Solange Ferreira bathes her son Jose Wesley in a bucket at their house in Poco Fundo, Pernambuco state, Brazil.

Microcephaly hadn't been seen in past Zika outbreaks. Babies with the condition have a smaller than normal head and often have a smaller brain that hasn't developed properly. Lab tests have detected the virus in the brain tissue of a few babies with microcephaly.

North Carolina health officials say there are no known cases of the virus being spread in in North Carolina or elsewhere in the continental United States, with the exception of one infection in Texas attributed to sexual transmission.

Dr. Wes Watson, head of the entomology department at NC State, talks about Zika
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Dr. Wes Watson talks about Zika

As of Thursday, 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. Less common symptoms include fever, joint pains and muscle aches. Only about one in five people infected with Zika virus will show symptoms.

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.

For more information about the virus, visit these websites:
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