A North Carolina resident has been diagnosed with the Zika virus, after recent travel to “a country with ongoing Zika virus transmission,” state health officials announced Friday.
The state described the person only as an “adult.” Citing concerns for patient confidentiality, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services declined to answer questions about the person’s gender, when he or she traveled abroad and returned to North Carolina, where and how the person contracted the virus, when the person was diagnosed, where the person lives, and whether the person is a woman of child-bearing age.
“As long as the outbreak continues in Central and South America and the Caribbean, we expect to see more travel-related Zika virus infections in our state,” Dr. Randall Williams, the state health director, said in a news release. “While travel-related cases don’t present a public health threat to North Carolina, we always actively monitor emerging global situations and adjust resources to meet needs.”
Olivia James, a DHHS spokeswoman, said the patient no longer has symptoms of the Zika infection. She would not say what symptoms the patient suffered.
The Zika virus is transmitted through bites from infected mosquitoes. Except for one Texas case in which the virus was transmitted by sexual intercourse, no one is known to have contracted the virus in the continental United States, DHHS said.
As of Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had reported travel-related Zika virus infections in 21 other states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“We have anticipated all along that travel-related cases would be identified in North Carolina,” said Dr. Megan Davies, the state epidemiologist. “We want to take this opportunity to reinforce that travelers to any of the countries with active Zika transmission should follow precautions to minimize their exposure to mosquito bites.”
Only about one in five people infected with Zika actually get sick, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and then the symptoms most commonly resemble the flu, including fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis or red eyes.
But pregnant women infected with Zika can pass the virus to their unborn babies, and infants born to infected mothers have been diagnosed with microcephaly, a serious brain defect. The CDC has recommended that pregnant women consider postponing travel to areas with active Zika virus transmission.