Results of Zika blood tests were pending Monday for two patients in Allegheny County and a dozen others in Pennsylvania who might have picked up the virus abroad, public health agencies said.
So far, five people in the state have tested negative for the mosquito-borne illness, according to a weekly update from the state Department of Health. No patient in Pennsylvania has tested positive.
“I would tell you right now: Being in southwestern Pennsylvania, your risk of getting Zika is extremely low,” said Karen Hacker, director of the Allegheny County Health Department.
Dr. Hacker said “the risk is really in the travel scenario” in outbreak-affected areas, which include about two dozen countries and regions in Central and South America.
State and county health officials in Pennsylvania have declined to release detailed patient information, citing confidentiality rules. It can take up to two weeks from the time of a blood drawing for Zika test results to arrive from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deputy state health secretary Loren K. Robinson has said.
Most patients recover within about a week from any symptoms, which can include a fever, rash and joint aches. But doctors fear infected pregnant women may face a serious risk of birth defects.
Dr. Hacker said that potential hazard has sparked evolving recommendations from the CDC. She said the agency now recommends Zika testing for all pregnant women who have traveled recently to an outbreak-affected area.
For men returning from those regions who have pregnant partners, health officials recommend either abstaining from sexual intercourse or using condoms, said Kristen Mertz, a medical epidemiologist with the Allegheny County Health Department. The CDC has noted rare reports of Zika transmission through sex and blood transfusions, although mosquito bites have been the primary source of the virus’ spread.
More than 30 Zika cases have been diagnosed in the United States in the last year, nearly all thought to have originated abroad. An apparent sexually transmitted case that Texas health authorities announced last week may mark the outbreak’s first Zika transmission within the continental U.S.
Adam Smeltz: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-2625.