The first case of Zika virus infection — which has been linked to prominent birth defects in newborns — has been diagnosed in King County, health officials said Wednesday.
The illness was found in a man in his fourties who had recently been in Columbia, a country where the virus has been spreading actively. This is the third case in Washington state, but health officials maintain that the virus does not pose a risk to the public.
All three cases were found in people who became infected while traveling in countries experiencing Zika outbreaks. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has placed travel advisories for countries such as Columbia, but with ongoing, widespread outbreaks in the Americas and the Caribbean, the number of Zika cases among travelers visiting or returning to King County and elsewhere in the mainland United States will likely increase.
King County Public Health has been working with communicable disease experts and local health care providers to identify and evaluate potential Zika infections.
To date, over 180 patients in King County have had blood samples sent to the CDC for Zika testing. The test reported today is the first to confirm Zika infection in a King County resident.
The virus is primarily spread through the bite of infected Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictusmosquitoes, 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 here.
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.
“Zika is a serious risk for pregnant women who travel to areas where outbreaks are occurring and who have sex partners who have traveled to these areas,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “Women who are pregnant should avoid travel to Zika-affected areas if possible and both women and men who do travel to areas where the Zika virus is spreading should take precautions to prevent infection from this virus.”
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.
More information relating to preventing sexual transmission of Zika can be found here.