Michigan reports first confirmed case of Zika virus

Jim Lynch
The Detroit News

State health officials on Wednesday confirmed the first case of Zika virus in a Michigan resident.

An Ingham County female is believed to have contracted the virus during a recent trip to a foreign country. She was not pregnant but experienced Zika symptoms upon her return to the state.

The virus is typically spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito: the Aedes aegypti, which is not native to Michigan. The insects are found in tropical and sub-tropical climates and the virus was first identified nearly 70 years ago in Uganda. For weeks, the spread of the virus into new areas has generated headlines globally.

“This is the time of year when many Michigan residents are traveling to warmer climates. If you have plans to travel to areas where Zika virus is present, take precautions to prevent mosquito bites. If you are pregnant, or may become pregnant, consider postponing your trip,” said Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, in a statement.

“Travelers to areas where Zika virus is present should contact their doctor if they experience symptoms associated with Zika virus during their trip, or within a week of their return home.”

One in 5 who contract the virus will typically get sick, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The symptoms, however, are generally mild — the most common being fever, rash, joint pain and red, itchy eyes.

“Symptoms are typically mild and last several days to a week,” according to a health department release. “Many people who are infected will not experience any symptoms. There have been rare reported cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome following Zika virus infection. There have also been rare reports of sexual transmission of Zika virus infection. There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika virus infection.”

No further details on the Ingham County female’s condition were available Wednesday.

“For several weeks now, travelers with potential exposure to Zika virus have been returning home to the continental U.S. with a few to be later diagnosed,” said Linda S. Vail, Ingham County health officer, in a statement. “Fortunately, Zika virus infection is typically mild, and people recover without incident. We have known this was a possibility. Health officials and providers have been vigilant in following CDC guidelines and are taking appropriate precautions to test all travelers with symptoms consistent with Zika virus and all pregnant women who have traveled to areas with Zika transmission.”

The real concerns with Zika lie with potential birth effects when an expecting mother contracts the virus. In particular, microcephaly — babies born with heads smaller than normal — has been a worry with Zika. The link hasn’t been confirmed but the possibility has prompted health officials to take cautionary steps to protect fetuses from the virus.

The CDC recommends pregnant woman avoid traveling to counties where Zika transmission has been confirmed or taking precautions against mosquito bites of such travel is necessary.

Mosquito-borne Zika outbreaks have erupted across most of Latin America and the Caribbean in the last year. So far, more than 80 Zika infections diagnosed in the U.S. have involved people who traveled to outbreak regions.

On Tuesday, the CDC confirmed 14 possible cases of sexual transmission of the virus in the U.S.

There is no vaccine for Zika. Researchers are scrambling to develop one, as well as better diagnostic tests.

The CDC recommends that all travelers use insect repellent while in Zika outbreak areas, and continue to use it for three weeks after travel in case they might be infected but not sick. That’s to prevent mosquitoes from biting them and possibly spreading Zika to others in the U.S.


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Associated Press contributed.