The first instance of laboratory-confirmed infection with Zika virus in Lexington was recently identified in a Fayette County infant born to a woman who had traveled during pregnancy to an area where the virus is circulating.
According to information from the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department, test results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that the infant was exposed to the virus in the womb. Although the infant’s mother never described symptoms of illness, antibodies against Zika found in her infant suggest maternal infection during an early stage of the pregnancy.
Neither mother nor child is capable of spreading the virus to others or to mosquitoes in the area, health officials say.
Although the primary means of transmission of Zika is through the bite of an infected mosquito, the virus can be spread by sexual contact and can be passed from mother to baby. Zika infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly, or small head size, in addition to other brain and neurodevelopmental birth defects, even though infection might not cause any visible symptoms in the mother.
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The Fayette County infant doesn’t have obvious physical abnormalities, officials said..
“The baby must be followed very closely,” said Dr. Kraig Humbaugh, the commissioner of health at the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department.
Fayette County residents should not be overly concerned about Zika, he said, adding that the virus is not circulating in mosquitoes in the area.
“The Lexington-Fayette County Health Department strongly advises pregnant women or women planning to become pregnant in the near future to consider canceling or delaying travel to Zika-affected areas of the world,” Humbaugh, Commissioner of Health, said in a news release.
However, “anyone planning to travel to countries where the Zika virus is circulating among mosquitoes should take steps to protect themselves. This includes being knowledgeable about where the virus is spreading, consulting with a health care provider, and most importantly, following public health’s recommendations to avoid mosquito bites.”
If international travel is absolutely necessary, travellers should wear long clothing, use proper insect repellant and avoid being outside during dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active, Humbaugh said.
Over 1,400 cases of Zika virus have been reported in the U.S. and the District of Columbia, according to the CDC. Before the most recent case, nine cases of Zika had been reported from Kentucky. All cases reported as of this date in the United States have been associated with travel to a Zika-affected area.
The CDC said on its website many people infected with Zika virus will have no symptoms or mild symptoms such as fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes and possibly muscle pain or headache. If someone has symptoms, the CDC said they can last several days to a week. The CDC said many are not hospitalized for Zika and “very rarely” died.
There is not a specific medicine or vaccine for Zika virus, the CDC said. To treat the virus, patients should treat their symptoms, get a lot of rest and drink plenty of fluids. The CDC also advised those who think they have Zika to wait and rule out dengue, a very rare fever transmitted by mosquitoes, before taking aspirin. The CDC also encourages those who think they have Zika to tell their healthcare provider.
Humbaugh said Fayette County residents should not be overly concerned about Zika. He did advise that if residents want to keep mosquitoes away from their property, they should eliminate potential mosquito breeding grounds, such as areas with standing water like birdbaths.
The Lexington-Fayette County Health Department also has a yearly mosquito spraying program, Humbaugh said.