Two new Zika cases in King County residents who had traveled

Zika virus have been confirmed in two more King County residents who had traveled to areas were Zika is circulating. One person who tested positive is a woman in her thirties who had traveled to Honduras. The other is a woman in her forties who had traveled to Haiti. Both people have recovered from the infection and neither is pregnant.

Including these cases, a total of four King County residents have been infected with Zika while in countries with current Zika outbreaks. This brings the total count of confirmed Zika cases in Washington to eight.

With ongoing widespread outbreaks in the Americas and the Caribbean including Puerto Rico, the number of Zika cases among travelers visiting or returning to King County and elsewhere in the mainland United States will likely increase. As additional Zika cases are identified in King County, updates will be posted to kingcounty.gov/zika.

This Zika case does not pose a risk to the public in Washington state. Zika virus is primarily spread through the bite of infected Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, or less commonly, through sexual contact with a recently infected man. The types of mosquitoes that transmit Zika are not found in the Pacific Northwest so local health officials do not expect Zika virus to spread.

Zika virus symptoms, risks and transmission

Symptoms of Zika are generally mild and include fever, rash, joint pain and redness of the eyes. Symptoms typically begin two to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Many people who get Zika have no symptoms at all. There is no vaccine to prevent infection or medicine to treat Zika.

Zika infection is a very serious concern for pregnant women because of its link with a birth defect in newborns called microcephaly, an abnormally small brain and skull, and other poor pregnancy outcomes. Zika is also linked to Guillan-Barré Syndrome, a problem marked by muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis.

Sexual transmission of Zika

The CDC has determined that Zika can also be spread by an infected man to his sexual partners, even when he does not have symptoms or know that he is infected. It’s important for men who have traveled to an area with Zika to follow CDC’s guidance to prevent sexual transmission of Zika, even if they don’t feel sick.

Couples with men who live in or travel to areas with Zika can prevent the spread of Zika by using condoms every time they have sex, or by not having sex. To be effective, condoms must be used consistently and correctly. CDC has more information about preventing sexual transmission of Zika: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/transmission/sexual-transmission.html

Zika virus prevention for pregnant women and women who may become pregnant

Healthcare providers should ask about travel and all Zika symptoms

Healthcare providers should take a recent travel history on all patients. If a patient or her sexual partner has traveled to a Zika-affected area or otherwise is at risk for Zika, healthcare providers should inquire about all Zika symptoms. Full guidance is available from Public Health – Seattle & King County .

For more information, visit kingcounty.gov/zika

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I am a risk communications specialist at Public Health - Seattle & King County.