MORGAN COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — UPDATE: The Alabama Department of Public Health said on Tuesday there are now three confirmed cases of the Zika virus in Alabama.
The two new cases are from Jefferson and Shelby Counties. The ADPH says the cases are travel related.
There are 43 total people who have submitted for testing, 28 of which still have results pending.
ORIGINAL: The Alabama Department of Public Health has reported the first confirmed travel-related case of the Zika virus in Alabama.
The person who tested positive is a resident of Morgan County.
Tests are being conducted from Alabama residents with a travel history in areas where Zika virus outbreaks are ongoing. There has also been one negative test result, and four additional results are pending.
“We knew it was only a matter of time before we would have the first positive case of an individual in Alabama with Zika virus,” Acting State Health Officer Dr. Tom Miller said. “Given the frequency of international travel to affected areas, we anticipate having additional positive cases. We are working with the medical community to identify high-risk individuals.”
The Zika virus is transmitted primarily through mosquito bites. The virus has the potential to spread from the mother to infant around the time of birth, but it is also possible to spread the virus from a mother to her baby during pregnancy.
Although the Zika virus is only associated with mild symptoms in the majority of case, a link to birth defects and other pregnancy-related poor outcomes has caused state agencies and other key stakeholders to be alerted.
“We are focusing on pregnant women and women in the reproductive age range who may become pregnant,” Dr. Miller said.
Dr. Albert White with the Alabama Department of Public Health specializes in infectious diseases. He reiterated the primary concern is what the illness can do to an unborn fetus.
“It can cause central nervous system problems that could make that child impaired for life,” White said. “We are asking people to be vigilant and avoid having standing water around the yard or keeping water in old tires or puddles. Make sure those areas are drained.”
Pregnant women with a history of travel to areas where the Zika virus is prevalent should be evaluated by reporting to a clinic within two weeks of travel to be tested.
“If you don’t have to travel to those countries then don’t,” Young explained. “But if you have to travel you want to make sure you protect yourself from the biting of these mosquitoes. Wear appropriate clothing like long sleeve shirts and long pants.”
Karleta Young is an expectant mother who works as a pharmacist. She is expecting a baby girl on March 7.
“Well as an expectant mom of course your concerned about anything that can harm your unborn child,” Young said. “I was just very concerned about being bit by mosquitoes but I take precautions and I don’t travel so that is a plus for me. And I stay inside a pretty good bit.”
Young continued, “I just know that it is out there and I know it is just another thing to be concerned about. Just like eating bad cold cuts when your pregnant. You could end up with Listeria and that too can affect your unborn child in a dangerous way as well. So it is just another thing you have to be conscious and up to date about.”
According to a press release from the ADPH, the CDC recommends the following:
- Pregnant women should not travel to Zika-affected areas.
- Men who have traveled to Zika-affected areas and have pregnant partners should abstain from sex or consistently and correctly use condoms for the duration of the pregnancy for all forms of sexual activity.
- Men who have traveled to Zika-affected areas and have non-pregnant partners should consider abstaining from sexual activity or consistently and correctly use condoms.
Additonally ADPH advises the public to be aware of the risks posed by the Zika virus and to take steps to protect themselves from mosquito bites, including the following:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535 as directed.
- Stay and sleep in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms.