Experts weigh in on Zika in Arkansas

The dangerous mosquito born Zika virus has now reached Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) – The CDC has confirmed that an Arkansan has tested positive for the mosquito-borne Zika Virus.

According to the CDC, the individual recently traveled out of the country and had a mild case of the virus.  

Zika virus is a relatively new disease for the Western Hemisphere. It first appeared in Brazil in May of 2015. It has since spread to 20 countries in Central and South America and the Caribbean.

While no locally transmitted Zika cases have been reported in the continental United States, there have been cases reported in returning travelers, including the first case in Arkansas.

"This particular individual is already over the symptoms and is way past the time that it would be infectious," said Dr. Susan Weinstein, veterinarian with the Arkansas Department of Health.

However, health officials warn these imported cases could easily result in the spread of the virus in the United States.

"A mosquito here could pick up the virus from the infected person and then transmit it to someone else," said Weinstein.

While anyone can contract the virus, doctors warn that pregnant women are most vulnerable to the effects.

"We've had a lot of pregnant patients that are concerned about this," said Dr. Curtis Lowery, Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist and Chairman of the OBGYN Department at UAMS.

Dr. Lowery said while the pregnant woman may show mild symptoms, the unborn child is most at risk.

"The congenital defect that has been associated with this is called Microcephaly which means small head, so the virus probably infects the cells of the developing brain of the fetus and damages it," said Lowery.

With no treatment available and no known cure, health experts said there are still many questions about the effects.

"People don't need to be worried, but they need to be aware," said Weinstein.

Symptoms of the virus include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes, however nearly 80 percent don't show any symptoms.

The CDC is encouraging those who are pregnant not to travel to the affected counties.

With outbreaks reported in at least 20 countries including Central and South America and the Caribbean, experts believe it's only a matter of time before the virus spreads across the United States. 

For a list of Zika-affected areas, you can click here


Related Links:

First case of Zika virus reported in Arkansas

Five things to know about the Zika virus

Women advised to avoid pregnancy as Zika virus spreads

Hawaiin baby born with defect linked to Zika virus


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