116 Cases of Zika in U.S. Residents in Jan., Feb.
Nearly all had a probable link to travel to a Zika-endemic area outside the United States, agency says
By Steven Reinberg
FRIDAY, March 18, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- During the first two months of this year, 116 U.S. residents have tested positive for infection with the Zika virus, and all but one were linked to travel to regions endemic for the virus.
That's according to a report released Friday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Experts there say that of the 116 cases confirmed between Jan. 1 and Feb. 26, 110 involved travel by the patient to a Zika-endemic area, while five involved sexual contact with a person who had recently traveled to such areas.
The remaining case of infection occurred when a mother passed the virus to her child in pregnancy. No details were given on that case.
Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that's been tied to thousands of cases -- mainly in Brazil -- of a severe birth defect called microcephaly. In microcephaly, a newborn's head is smaller than normal, with the potential for long-term neurological damage.
"Among the 115 [U.S.] patients with travel-associated infection, all patients reported clinical illness," the CDC said. In the majority of cases, symptoms included rash (97 percent of cases), fever and joint pain.
"Zika virus disease should be considered in patients with acute onset of fever, rash, arthralgia [joint pain], or conjunctivitis [pink eye] who traveled to areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission or who had unprotected sex with someone who traveled to one of those areas and developed compatible symptoms within 2 weeks of returning," the CDC said.
The findings were reported in the March 18 issue of the agency's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Earlier this week, scientists reported more evidence supporting a link between the Zika virus and microcephaly.
Researchers report that one in every 100 pregnant women infected with the virus during the first trimester will give birth to a baby with the birth defect.
The new risk analysis did have one important caveat, however.
"The findings are from the 2013-14 outbreak [of Zika] in French Polynesia, and it remains to be seen whether our findings apply to other countries in the same way," study co-author Dr. Simon Cauchemez said in a news release from The Lancet. The findings were published in the journal on March 15.