LISTEN – Zika Virus Spreads To North America – One Case Possibly Found In Northwest Montana
The Zika virus, a mosquito-borne virus from the same family as yellow Fever and West Nile, has been reported in Montana.
Epidemiologist in communicable diseases with the State of Montana Department of Health and Human Services, Christine Mulgrew, said the Zika virus was first detected in Africa in the 1940's.
"The disease is spread through mosquitoes, and it eventually spread and made its way to the northern hemisphere recently," Mulgrew said. "The symptoms include having a rash, joint pain and soreness, and red eyes or conjunctivitis. You can only get the disease if you are bitten by an infected mosquito, and then travel here."
Mulgrew said one case may have been discovered in northwestern Montana.
"We have one person who believes they might have been sick, but we have not been able to confirm if they have truly been exposed to the virus," she said. "So, we've taken some blood samples and sent them off for testing. So far, those who have been sick in other areas have had no long-term consequences. There have been very few hospitalizations and no fatalities."
Mulgrew advises anyone who believes they may have been exposed to the Zika virus should contact their healthcare provider.
"Get tested for the virus at their doctor and work through their local health department to figure out where to sen the sample."
With no treatment or vaccine available, the only protection against Zika is to avoid travel to areas with an active infestation. If you do travel to a country where Zika is present, the Centers For Disease Control advises strict adherence to mosquito protection measures: Use an EPA-approved repellent over sunscreen, wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts thick enough to block a mosquito bite, and sleep in air-conditioned, screened rooms, among others.