IN Focus: State officials monitoring Zika virus after first confirmed case

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INDIANAPOLIS (Feb. 14, 2016) - State health officials have confirmed the first case of Zika virus in Indiana.

According to the Indiana State Department of Health, the case involves a non-pregnant resident who recently traveled to Haiti. The individual didn’t require hospitalization, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a press conference, Tuesday, Dr. Jennifer Brown said the risk of a Zika virus outbreak in Indiana remains low.

“We believe, based on what we know about the biology of this virus, that the risk of a Zika virus outbreak occurring within the State of Indiana is low,” said Brown.

She gave a number of reasons why Indiana would not be the perfect breeding ground and assured residents to not worry about their chances of becoming infected.

“We don’t have the virus’ favorite vector mosquito here in Indiana. We don’t have wild populations of non-human primates here in Indiana. We most likely have conditions of sanitation that are less favorable for the mosquitoes to breed in Indiana. And we simply don’t have large numbers of people infected at this time. In order for the virus to spread, there really have to be large numbers of people infected at the same place at the same time,” explained Brown.

However, travelers are at risk, especially when visiting Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. Brown said we may see sporadic cases of Zika in Indiana if vacationers, missionaries, or people attending the Olympics in Rio become infected and return home with the virus.

The virus is spread primarily through mosquitoes, although it can also spread through sexual contact. Brown urged people to be careful if they have recently traveled to an infected country.

“Men who travel to areas where Zika virus transmission is occurring and who have pregnant sex partners are advised also to take precautions against mosquito bites and to either abstain from sex or to practice safe sex through condom use through the duration of their partners pregnancies.”

Health officials in Ohio also confirmed a case of Zika virus there. In that case, a woman returning from Haiti tested positive for the virus. The CDC was reporting 35 cases of Zika virus in 12 states and the District of Columbia.

Most people who are infected won’t develop symptoms, but some will get a mild illness that can include fever, rash, joint pain and pink eye. There is currently no vaccine for the virus, which can cause birth defects.

The CDC has advised pregnant women to avoid traveling to areas where Zika virus has been found. People who do travel should follow the following guidelines to minimize the risk of mosquito bites:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to reduce the amount of exposed skin.
  • Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside. Sleep under a mosquito bed net if air conditioned or screened rooms are not available or if sleeping outdoors.
  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. When used as directed, these insect repellents are proven safe and effective even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
  • Look for products containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535 as the active ingredients.
  • Always follow the product label instructions and reapply as directed.
  • If you are using sunscreen, apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.
  • Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or buy permethrin-treated items; don’t use permethrin products directly on skin. They are intended to treat clothing.

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