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Arizona’s first Zika case confirmed by health officials

PHOENIX — Arizona’s first case of the Zika virus was confirmed Monday by the Arizona Department of Health Services and the Maricopa County Department of Public Health.

The older woman, a Maricopa County resident, traveled outside of the United States to a Zika affected area before developing symptoms of illness.

“We have been expecting a travel-associated case of Zika virus and we believe more infections are likely as people travel to and from areas where the disease is currently being transmitted,” said Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. “While this is a first, the risk of this virus spreading throughout Arizona is very low. Arizona’s public health system has a plan in place and we are ready to rapidly respond.”

Zika, a type of flavivirus, is primarily transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito. A link has been identified between the virus and birth defects among infants of infected mothers.

“As soon as public health became aware of the suspect case, the individual was contacted to ensure she stayed indoors and avoided being bitten by mosquitoes to prevent further spread of the virus,” said Bob England, director of MCDPH.

Many infected with the virus do not become ill. Those who do have symptoms that may include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis. Severe illness and hospitalization due to Zika virus is rare.

“We strongly recommend those who travel to Zika affected areas wear insect-repellant and take precautions to avoid mosquito bites for at least a week when they return, even if they have no signs of illness, not just to protect themselves but to protect their families and the community,” said Dr. England.

Zika virus can be transmitted by several Aedes species mosquitoes, and Arizona is home to one of these – Aedes aegypti. Although the mosquito is found in many parts of the state, there is no evidence of Zika transmission.

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