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Official: Zika virus not likely to spread in Arizona

In this Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, file photo, Aedes aegypti mosquitoes float in a mosquito cage at a laboratory in Cucuta, Colombia. The Aedes aegypti mosquito is the vector that transmits the Zika virus, and also dengue and chikunguna. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan, File)

PHOENIX — After Arizona confirmed its first case of the Zika virus on Monday, many residents have been wondering how state health officials are planning to tackle the problem head-on.

The mosquito-transmitted virus was first discovered in Maricopa County, after an older woman traveled to a Zika-affected area before developing symptoms of illness.

Dr. Cara Christ with the Arizona Department of Health Services said while Arizona is home to the mosquito that transmits Zika — the Aedes aegypti mosquito — those bugs do not carry the virus right now, meaning there is a “low risk” that the disease will spread.

That type of mosquito also transmits the dengue and chikungunya viruses. Christ said the state has had to prevent local transmission of these type of diseases in the past, which has prepared them for responding to Zika.

“Because we’ve known of the risk of dengue and chikungunya potentially coming to Arizona, we have had plans in place for the last several years on how we would respond,” she said. “So our plans were just updated to involve Zika.”

Since the virus seems to have only taken refuge in one Arizona resident, Christ said preliminary steps to prevent a spread are pretty simple, including removing standing water and ensuring the infected patient is treated for.

In case of a statewide spread, Christ said health officials do have specific plans to stay ahead of the disease.

“If you’ve got wider spread (of the Zika virus), then that involves the entire community,” she said. “You’d have prevention messaging, you’d be working on a county-wide or statewide basis to ensure that there was adequate vector control and that you were trapping and doing testing.”

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