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Child in Utah tests positive for Zika virus


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SALT LAKE CITY — A child who recently returned home to Utah after traveling outside the country has tested positive for the Zika virus, officials confirmed.

The child, who is between 2 and 10 years old, had symptoms such as the typical rash, and has not had any complications, according to the Utah Department of Health.

"It isn't surprising that Utah has an imported case of Zika virus since so many of our residents travel to and from areas where the disease is currently being transmitted," Dr. Allyn Nakashima, State Epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health (UDOH), said in a statement. "Zika virus, with the possible link to the birth defect microcephaly, is understandably frightening."

Health officials say the risk of a major outbreak in the U.S. is low due to effective mosquito control programs.

The species of mosquito that carries Zika virus is also not found in Utah, officials say.

The World Health Organization declared the Zika virus a public health emergency on Feb. 1.

Health officials detected an explosive rise in the number of Zika cases in Brazil in May, accompanied by an rise in microcephaly, a birth defect in which babies are born with unusually small heads and developmental delays.

The virus has since been detected in roughly three dozen countries in Latin America, Central America and the Pacific Islands.

Experts are still trying to understand the connection between the Zika virus and microcephaly. They are also investigating links between the virus and a rare autoimmune disorder called Guillain-Barre Syndrome that can lead to muscle weakness and paralysis.

The UDOH advises others who are thinking of traveling to the affected countries to take precaution to avoid mosquito bites, since there is no vaccine to prevent the virus and no specific medical treatment for victims of the virus.

It is largely through an infected Aedes species mosquito bite that the virus is transmitted to people. The virus can also be sexually transmitted, though there is not much data about that risk.

The Zika virus causes fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes, and is typically a mild illness. Most people will not need to be tested, and about 80 percent of those with the virus will never show symptoms of it. About 20 percent will have mild symptoms, according to UDOH.

Public health officials advise pregnant women to postpone travel to the affected areas of the world or to speak with their health care provider before thinking about traveling.

Travel alerts currently include many countries in Latin and Central America and for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

As of Feb. 24, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 107 travel-associated Zika viruses cases in the U.S. and no locally-acquired cases.

Locally-acquired cases have been reported in Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands. A list of affected countries is available at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"For anyone who does plan to visit the affected countries, prevention is the best approach to avoiding Zika virus infection," UDOH said.

To prevent mosquito bites, apply insect repellent that has DEET, dress in long-sleeved shirts and long pants and remove standing water where mosquitos live and breed.

The UDOH and CDC are closely monitoring the situation. Read more about the Zika virus and prevention at www.cdc.gov/zika. Pregnant women with questions may call 1-800-822-2229, text 855-999-3525, or chat or email www.MotherToBaby.org.

Contributing: Daphne Chen

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