After visiting a Thurston County hospital, doctors confirmed that a man in his 20’s from the Olympia Washington area does in fact have the Zika virus.
According to health officials, Zika is spread through the bite of a mosquito but that specific type of mosquito does not live in the Washington state area. It was reported that the Macon County man had recently traveled to the South Pacific where it is believed he was infected. As far as spreading, experts do not anticipate a major problem in Washington state.
Once doctors at the hospital confirmed the Zika infection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were informed. Although cases of the Zika virus have been reported in other areas of the US, this is the first person in Washington state to test positive.
As stated by Dr. Scott Lindquist who works with the Department of Health as the state epidemiologist for communicable diseases, reports of the Zika virus in the United States are the result of people traveling to and from places where the virus is spreading. While everyone bitten is at risk, the greatest concern is for women of child-bearing age, whether pregnant or not.
At this time, no vaccine to prevent the Zika virus exists. In addition, there are no specific medical treatments once someone becomes infected. Therefore, officials with the health department strongly encourage people traveling to countries where the Zika virus is circulating to take appropriate protection from mosquito bites.
Women of child-bearing age in particular are discouraged from traveling. The problem is that Zika, which is a tropical disease carried by mosquitoes from one person to another, has been proven to cause birth defects and newborn deaths. Interestingly, these mosquitos are daytime biters so it is essential to apply strong repellant during daylight hours.
Even though a mild illness follows a bite in the majority of cases, of people infected with the Zika virus, as much as 80 percent never show symptoms. However, one of every five individuals will experience mild symptoms including joint pain, fever, red eyes, and rash, symptoms that typically last between a few days to one week.
While the hardest hit country of the Zika outbreak is Brazil where more than one million people have been infected, other countries including Central and South America, the Caribbean, and the United States have also been impacted. The CDC reports that currently, 82 cases have been reported in the US.