A Mason County man in his 20s is the first person in Washington to test positive for Zika virus, the state Department of Health said Monday.
The patient visited a Thurston County hospital after recently traveling to the South Pacific, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Monday that he had the illness, which is primarily spread by mosquitoes in the areas affected.
There’s been a recent outbreak of the virus in many countries in the Caribbean and South and Central America. The illness is usually mild, and about 80 percent of people with the virus don’t have symptoms, the health department said.
But reports suggest it may negatively affect pregnancy, such as causing children to be born with microcephaly, in which the baby’s head is smaller than normal, which can result in a variety of health problems.
“Because many people travel to and from places where Zika is spreading, we’ve been expecting to have imported cases of Zika virus disease,” Dr. Scott Lindquist, state epidemiologist for communicable diseases for the Department of Health, said in a statement. “... The good news is this virus spreads through the bite of a type of mosquito we don’t have in Washington state, so it is very unlikely that this virus would spread widely here.”
The Department of Health said it doesn’t appear that other patients at the Thurston County hospital were put at risk.
There isn’t a Zika vaccine, or a specific way to treat the virus, the health department said.
Instead, officials say travelers to the countries affected need to be vigilant about preventing mosquito bites, and pregnant woman are advised to stay away from the areas for the time being, if possible.
More information about Zika is available on the health department’s website, doh.wa.gov.