First Travel-Related Zika Case Reported in Mobile County

Mobile County is now the latest to join a list many had wanted to completely avoid.

“We’d like to report our first case of Zika virus on an individual who came in, who’s from Mobile, came back into the country,” Dr. Bernard Eichold, Mobile County Health Department Officer.

Dr. Eichold calls it a travel-related case.  It’s unlike what you may have heard about in Miami where transmission was believed to have come from local mosquitoes.

“We don’t think there’s a very high likelihood that she was exposed, she came back with family friends, she was indoors she was feeling bad, she went to see her private physician,” said Eichold.

That physician ended up asking the crucial question; “have you been traveling?”  Turns out she had, and a sample was sent to the state for testing.

“And before the blood test could come back she had departed the country and we’re reporting this as a transit case, the first case in Mobile County.”

Typically samples take up to two weeks for results because only a facility can perform the test.  And despite the first case being confirmed in Mobile County, officials say the threat of an epidemic spreading is low.

However, Alabama does have a lot of Asian Tiger mosquitoes, and researchers say they’re known to carry the virus.  So we asked if all this rain so far might be an issue.

“Right now with all the rainfall it’s going to be extremely prevalent, we ask everyone to police their own properties, empty any standing water that they see,” said Jerry Folse, Mobile County Health Dept. Vector Control.

No amount of spraying can wipe out mosquitoes, but county directors say their program is aggressive.

“We have our aerial spraying we also have our trucks that go out and spray we’re doing what we can to make sure we’re doing our best to combating the mosquitoes.  Compare to a county that doesn’t have that at all, we’re in a good place right now,” said Dr. Stephanie Crawford, also with Mobile County Health Dept.

So far there have been 25 reported cases in 16 counties throughout Alabama as of August 15th.

Officials say they will continue to canvass the area near this patient’s home.  Per HIPPA laws health officials cannot say anything to identify the patient.

Earlier Version:

MOBILE, Alabama — The first travel-related case of the Zika virus has been reported in Mobile County, according to state health officials.

Because of patient privacy rights under HIPAA, no identifying information of the Mobile County patient will be made available to the public.

Statewide, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) reports there has been a total of 25 travel-related positive tests for the Zika virus in 16 counties.

Baldwin County is not among those with a Zika virus case.

“Persons should exercise caution and follow Alabama Department of Public Health recommendations regarding Zika,” said Dr. Bernard H. Eichold II, Mobile County’s Health Officer.

The Mobile County Health Department will conduct a news conference today at noon to discuss the situation.

Zika virus is transmitted primarily through the bites of Aedes species mosquitoes and through sexual activity. Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly that is a sign of incomplete brain development. Doctors have also found other problems in pregnancies and among fetuses and infants infected with Zika virus before birth.

There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika. People infected with the Zika virus may have no symptoms–it causes only mild symptoms in one out of five people. People usually do not get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected.

The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other symptoms include muscle pain and headache. These symptoms usually last for several days to a week. Symptoms of Zika are similar to other viruses spread through mosquito bites, like dengue and chikungunya.

The other Alabama counties where there have been Zika positives are Calhoun, Cullman, Etowah, Houston, Jefferson, Lawrence, Lee, Limestone, Madison, Montgomery, Morgan, Shelby, St. Clair, Talladega, and Tuscaloosa.

“We have been working with a variety of partners, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the medical community, to identify individuals who need to be tested for the Zika virus and with those who have tested positive,” said State Health Officer Dr. Tom Miller.

“Additional precautions are needed for pregnant women and women of childbearing age. Public health environmentalists have been helping communities reduce mosquito breeding grounds around their homes and communities.”

The best way to protect against Zika is to prevent mosquito bites by wearing an Environmental Protection Agency-registered repellent. Other recommendations are as follows:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Stay and sleep in places with air conditioning or window and door screens.
  • Remove standing water.

Pregnant women should not travel to Zika-affected areas. If a pregnant woman must travel to one of these areas, she should discuss the trip with her healthcare provider first and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during her travel.

Returning travelers infected with Zika can spread the virus through mosquito bites. During the first week of infection, Zika virus can be found in a person’s blood and can pass from an infected person to a mosquito through mosquito bites. An infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people. If a woman is pregnant and has a sex partner who lives in or has traveled to an area with Zika, the couple should not have sex, or use condoms the right way, every time, during the remainder of the pregnancy.

For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, http://www.cdc.gov/zika, or the Alabama Department of Public Health website, http://www.adph.org/mosquito. To learn more about local mosquito-control efforts, visit http://mchd.org, and under “Services” select “Vector Control.”

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