Dozens of military members contracted Zika overseas

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Men and women serving in our military are having to fight a different kind of enemy - Zika.

Earlier this week, 33 service members were confirmed to be infected by the Zika virus. Thursday morning, that number had increased to 41, to include family members of those serving. Each of the cases were not contracted in the United States, but rather overseas.

Staff at Fort Bragg's Womack Army Medical Center are educating troops on how to stay safe while they are abroad.

Hannah Smith works at Womack and has been warning of the dangers of Zika to those on base.

"The biggest question that we get are from travelers that come back from different areas asking questions regarding transmission, risk, and testing," Smith told ABC11.

Smith said efforts are being made to keep troops informed and a proactive approach is being taken.

Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Patricia Saenz, a preventative medicine technician, sets up a vector surveillance system at Camp Lejeune. No Zika cases have been reported there.

Seaman William Cagle

"We've gone out to several different areas, several different clinics, health fairs, and wellness fairs all across Fort Bragg," she said. "And if they do come back and they do have signs and symptoms, they do need to go see their health care provider."

In response to the updated figures, Department of Defense spokesman Major Ben Sakrisson said:

"DoD is working closely with federal, state and local authorities to monitor the threat of Zika to our military and civilian personnel and their dependents. We have been taking proactive steps for months to help mitigate the threat of Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses in the continental United States and overseas. Actions taken include increased emphasis on education about personal protective measures; increased attention to mosquito surveillance and control; expanded diagnostic laboratory testing; and increased attention and preparedness in medical treatment facilities to screen, diagnose, and care for infected individuals. We will continue working closely with our federal, state and local partners to ensure consistent reporting of potential cases and unity of effort in reducing the virus' impact on local communities."

The countries where the service members contracted Zika were countries where the virus was already present.


Certain preventative measures include wearing mosquito-repellant and mosquito-repellant clothing, and staying away from areas where the Zika virus is known to be present.

The military is also testing installations for presence of the Zika virus, along with other efforts to eliminate mosquitoes as best as they can.

In a Thursday press briefing, President Barack Obama made mention of the updated figures and made a plea for more resources to aggressively fight the virus.

On Capitol Hill, Senate Democrats are urging for recess to be canceled so Congress can return to Washington to pass the Zika bill. This bill would provide $1.1 billion dollars in funding toward attacking the virus.

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