First case of Zika virus confirmed in RI

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A man is his 60s is Rhode Island’s first confirmed case of the Zika virus, the state Department of Health confirmed Tuesday.

Health officials say the man recently traveled to Haiti, where there is active mosquito-borne transmission of the disease.

“We have been closely monitoring the Zika situation internationally and have been coordinating with Rhode Island healthcare providers for months. We were fully prepared for this first case,” said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. “While the risk to the public is very low, we are coordinating with doctors, especially those who work with pregnant women, on how best to identify symptoms and educate patients about prevention.”

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Health officials said Zika is spread primarily through bites from infected mosquitoes. It can also be spread sexually.

“We don’t expect locally-acquired cases here because the species of mosquitoes that are currently known to transmit Zika are not found in Rhode Island,” said Dr. Alexander-Scott. “However, Rhode Islanders who are pregnant or are considering becoming pregnant should avoid travel to countries where there is active transmission of the virus.”

Health officials said Zika symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Joint Pain
  • Headache
  • Muscle Pain
  • Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

Approximately 80% of those who have the virus do not have any symptoms. Symptoms typically appear within three to 14 days of infection.

Zika is also associated with pregnant women giving birth to babies with microcephaly and other birth defects. Microcephaly is a condition when a baby’s head is smaller than expected. Babies with microcephaly often have smaller brains that have not developed properly.

Pregnant women or women who are considering pregnancy and have potential for exposure to Zika (from either a mosquito or a sexual partner) should seek counseling from their healthcare providers.

To prevent exposure to Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases health officials said people should:

• Use and reapply Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved bug spray containing at least 20% DEET.
• Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
• Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear.
• Stay in buildings that use air conditioning, or have window and door screens.
• Sleep under a mosquito net.

According to the CDC, Massachusetts has had seven similar travel-associated cases, and Connecticut has had one.

The health department said measures it has taken to prepare for the Zika virus include:

• Established a Zika Task Force that includes fetal medicine specialists from Women & Infants Hospital in February;
• Issuing regular briefs to Rhode Island healthcare providers with updated guidance and information on symptoms and specimen collection;
• Coordinating patient specimen collection and shipment to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); and
• Coordinating with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management for increased mosquito surveillance and larvaciding.

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