A Mason County man in his 20s who traveled to the South Pacific is the first person in Washington state to test positive for Zika virus infection, health officials said.
A Mason County man in his 20s who traveled to the South Pacific has been confirmed as the first person in Washington state to be infected with the Zika virus, health officials said Monday.
The man, who visited a Thurston County hospital, is among an estimated 50 cases submitted from the state to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for testing in the past few weeks. No other cases have been confirmed, health officials have said.
“Because many people travel to and from places where Zika is spreading, we’ve been expecting to have imported cases of Zika virus,” Dr. Scott Lindquist, the state epidemiologist for communicable diseases, said in a statement.
The Mason County man, who didn’t want to be identified, traveled to the South Pacific with a small group of people from mid-December until February, said Dr. Diana Yu, health officer for the Mason County health department. Health officials aren’t saying exactly where he went to protect his privacy.
He is among 82 people nationwide who contracted the mosquito-borne infection while traveling to areas where the virus has exploded. So far, Zika virus has been detected in at least 30 countries in Latin America, the CDC said. No local transmission of Zika virus by mosquitoes has been detected in the U.S. However, Dallas health officials this month confirmed a case of Zika virus transmitted through sex.
The infection typically causes mild illness, with fever, red eyes and joint pain. Most people who are infected never know it, but the Mason County traveler fell ill with typical symptoms upon his return to Washington, Yu said.
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“He’s one of the 20 percent who actually develop symptoms,” she added.
Health officials warned the young man about the possibility of spreading the virus through sexual contact.
Zika infection previously had not been thought to cause serious harm, but in recent months, new outbreaks of the virus have been linked to growing cases of the rare birth defect microcephaly and a condition called Guillain-Barre syndrome.
The types of mosquito that spread Zika virus are not found in Washington state, Lindquist added.
There is no vaccine to protect against Zika virus infection and no specific treatment for people who are infected. The best prevention is for people in areas with Zika virus to avoid mosquito bites through use of protective clothing and insecticide.