The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which carries the Zika virus.
By Adam Smeltz / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Two Pennsylvanians have come down with the Zika virus, the state’s first confirmed cases tied to the outbreak of the illness abroad, the state Department of Health announced Tuesday.
The department said both patients are women who traveled recently to outbreak-affected countries. They appear to have recovered from mild cases with symptoms such as a fever and rash, state health secretary Karen Murphy said.
She declined to release more personal details, citing privacy concerns.
“I would like to emphasize that these cases pose no threat to public health,” Ms. Murphy said on a conference call with reporters. She said the patients “do not pose an infection risk.”
Her announcement followed similar reports Tuesday from Delaware and Ohio, where health agencies reported their states’ first known Zika cases linked to the outbreak. The Ohio case involves a 30-year-old woman who returned to Cleveland after visiting Haiti and showed symptoms in late January.
Delaware health officials are due to release more specifics today about the travel-related case there, according to the News Journal newspaper of Wilmington, Del. Most people recover within about a week from the mosquito-borne virus, although doctors fear infected pregnant women may face serious risks of birth defects.
Because of that, health authorities are urging expectant mothers to consider postponing travel to outbreak-stricken areas, including swaths of Central America, South America and the Caribbean. At least 14 people in Pennsylvania were awaiting the results of Zika blood tests as of Monday, but the state has not said whether any of them are pregnant. The outbreak began in May.
“We definitely expect to see more” testing in Western Pennsylvania as travelers return from overseas trips, said Karen Hacker, the Allegheny County health director. From last week through Tuesday, she said, clinicians had tested at least four county residents for Zika. They did not appear to be among the confirmed cases that Ms. Murphy announced.
It can take up to two weeks after a blood drawing for the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to finish processing a Zika test. The agency encourages pregnant women returning from outbreak-affected countries to undergo screening even if they aren’t showing symptoms, which can include red eyes and joint pain.
While mosquito bites account for most of the cases, Zika also may spread through sexual intercourse and blood transfusions. Doctors have diagnosed about three dozen cases in the continental United States over the past year, all but one thought to have originated in other countries. The outlier is an apparent sexually transmitted case in Texas.
As spring approaches, Ms. Murphy said, state health workers are exploring how to handle any potential hazards when mosquito season stirs. A mosquito species in the state is capable of carrying Zika, but researchers have said any risk of infectious bites should be greater in Southern states as the weather heats up.
”We’re closely following what the CDC guidance is in terms of how we should be prepared,” Ms. Murphy said.
The Associated Press contributed. Adam Smeltz: email@example.com, 412-263-2625 or on Twitter @asmeltz.
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