State health officials have confirmed the first Massachusetts Zika virus case.
"We are aware of one case in Massachusetts, a person who had traveled to an area where we already know Zika is being transmitted," Dr. Larry Madoff, director of the Division of Epidemiology and Immunization at the Department of Public Health, told State House News Service on Thursday. The Centers for Disease Control confirmed the infection on Tuesday, DPH said.
The infected person is a Boston man, according to the Boston Public Health Commission. He is expected to make a full recovery.
The virus has been linked to birth defects and neurological problems. It is spread by the same mosquito that spreads dengue and yellow fever.
The species of mosquito that transmits Zika is generally not found in the Boston area. Still, health officials are warning pregnant women about traveling to infected countries.
The virus, they say, could spread to an unborn baby and could cause birth defects.
"We were not surprised to see a case. We know a lot of people from our state travel to parts of the world where Zika has been transmitted," Madoff said. "We won't be surprised to see some additional cases."
If you can't avoid traveling to a high risk country, Boston Public Health Commission Director, Dr. M. Anita Barry says you should take precautions.
"They have to take every step they can to avoid being bitten by a mosquito," including using mosquito repellent, she said.
The majority of people who get the virus won't get sick, but symptoms can include a fever, rash, and joint pain.
Right now, the high risk countries are Brazil, Haiti and Colombia, and countries within South and Central America
Boston Health officials say you really can't really catch it from someone else.
"Very, very rarely, there have been a report of through sexual transmission, but we worry about is mosquito bites," says Dr. Barry.
They also say the likeliness of it spreading around Boston is minimal.
Some airlines are offering refunds and rebooking to pregnant fliers to those affected areas.
The World Health Organization announced Thursday that the Zika virus is "spreading explosively" and it will hold an emergency meeting of independent experts Monday to decide if the outbreak should be declared an international health emergency.
- Central and South America: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname and Venezuela.
- Caribbean: Barbados, the Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, St. Martin, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
- Cape Verde, off the coast of western Africa, and Samoa in the South Pacific.