There have been a total of 25 travel-related positive tests for the Zika virus in Alabama, and some of those affected are in Jefferson County, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Positive tests have been reported in Jefferson County and 15 others, including Calhoun, Cullman, Etowah, Houston, Lawrence, Lee, Limestone, Madison, Mobile, Montgomery, Morgan, Shelby, St. Clair, Talledega and Tuscaloosa counties. Of the 25 cases, six were reported in Jefferson County and two were reported in Shelby County.
ADPH is encouraging medical professionals to abide by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria regarding testing individuals for Zika, said Dr. Jim McVay, ADPH director of the bureau of health promotion and chronic disease.
McVay said that many individuals want to be tested for Zika, but the CDC only recommends testing for some individuals. According to a flyer on the CDC website, testing is recommended for individuals with symptoms of Zika or pregnant women who live in or have traveled to an area with Zika or who have had sex with a partner who lives in or traveled to an area with Zika.
“We have been working with a variety of partners, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the medical community, to identify individuals who need to be tested for the Zika virus and those who have tested positive,” said State Health Officer Dr. Tom Miller. “Additional precautions are needed for pregnant women and women of childbearing age. Public health environmentalists have been helping communities reduce mosquito breeding grounds around their homes and communities.”
Zika virus is primarily transmitted through the bites of Aedes species mosquitoes, according to an ADPH press release, and through sexual activity. Zika infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly, a serious birth defect that is a sign of incomplete brain development. Doctors have also found other problems in pregnancies and among fetuses and infants infected with Zika before birth, the release said.
Many people do not realize they have been infected, the release said, because it causes only minor symptoms in one out of five people, and most people do not get sick enough to go to the hospital. People also rarely die of Zika.
The most common symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis, or red eyes. Other symptoms include muscle pain and headache, and the symptoms usually last from several days to a week.
To protect against Zika, ADPH recommends preventing mosquito bites by wearing an Environmental Protection Agency-registered repellent as well as wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, staying and sleeping in places with air conditioning or screens on the windows and doors and removing standing water to remove mosquito breeding grounds.
Pregnant women should also not travel to Zika-affected areas, the release said, or should discuss the trip with their healthcare provider beforehand. If a pregnant woman has a partner who lives in or has traveled to an area with Zika, they should not have sex, or should use condoms during the remainder of the pregnancy, according to the release.
Individuals who have traveled and been infected with Zika can spread the virus through mosquito bites, and during the first week of infection, it can be passed from an infected person to a mosquito through mosquito bites. The infected mosquito can then spread the virus to others.