State health officials today said they have asked Connecticut health care providers to report suspected cases of Zika virus infection to the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) and to the patient’s local health department. There are currently no reported cases of this mosquito-borne disease in Connecticut.


In May 2015, Brazil reported the first outbreak of Zika virus in the Americas. Although the illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week, a possible link between Zika virus infection in pregnant women and subsequent birth defects is being investigated in Brazil. In December 2015, Puerto Rico reported its first confirmed Zika virus case. Locally transmitted Zika virus has not been reported elsewhere in the United States, but cases of Zika have been reported in returning travelers.


CDC has issued a travel notice advising people traveling to affected areas in South America, Central America, the Caribbean, or Mexico to protect themselves from mosquito bites to reduce their risk of infection with Zika virus.


“All people, especially pregnant women, who are traveling to areas where Zika virus is found, should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites to reduce their risk of infection of Zika virus as well as other mosquito-borne viruses such as dengue and chikungunya,” said DPH Acting Commissioner Dr. Raul Pino. “Travelers returning from areas with Zika activity should seek medical care if they experience a fever and symptoms of infection.”


Zika virus, originally identified in 1947 from Zika forest of Uganda, is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes are found throughout tropical regions of the world and are the same mosquitoes that spread dengue and chikungunya viruses. Mosquitoes become infected with the Zika virus when they feed on a person already infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bites. There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika virus infection.


“The mosquito species that is primarily responsible for transmission of Zika virus to people is not found in Connecticut,” said Dr. Phil Armstrong, Medical Entomologist with the Center for Vector Biology & Zoonotic Diseases, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. “Closely related species are present in very low numbers and are unlikely to present a risk of Zika virus infection to people. If the virus spreads to the United States mainland it will most likely be identified first in Florida or the gulf states.”

The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Infection is thought to provide lifelong immunity. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon. Deaths are rare.


Travelers can protect themselves from this disease by taking steps to prevent mosquito bites. When traveling to countries where Zika virus (see map) or other viruses spread by mosquitoes have been reported, use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, and stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens.


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