FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 3, 2016
Contact: Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936
Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391
DPHHS officials urge awareness of Zika virus, travel recommendations
Health officials to monitor returning travelers from affected areas
State health officials said Montanans need to be aware of the risk of Zika virus infection before traveling to Central and South America and the Caribbean.
Pregnant women especially need to take note of the recent travel recommendations issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that urge them to postpone travel to affected areas if possible. Specific travel recommendations for pregnant women can be found here http://www.cdc.gov/zika/pregnancy/index.html
Pregnant women are most at risk for complications from the Zika virus because serious birth defects have been reported in children born to women who are infected with the virus.
“At this time, DPHHS recommends that pregnant women consider postponing travel to a Zika-affected area and women trying to become pregnant talk to their doctor about the risk of Zika virus infection before traveling to affected areas,” said Jim Murphy of the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) Communicable Disease Bureau.
DPHHS is also working with local health departments to monitor Montanans returning from Zika-affected areas and have in place efforts to report, test and conduct follow-up with individuals suspected of infection.
Zika virus is spread to people primarily through mosquito bites, not casual person-to-person contact. While rare, transmission of the virus from blood transfusions and sexual contact have been reported. “The mosquito species associated with the spread of Zika virus does not exist in our state or region,” Murphy said. To date, no cases of Zika virus infection have been reported in Montana.
According to CDC, the most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain and red, itchy eyes. Symptoms are usually mild and last several days to a week. About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus will get sick. For people who get sick, the illness is usually mild. For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected.
In those who become ill, symptoms present 2-7 days after infection and an infected person will carry the virus in their blood for up to 7 days before the body clears the infection. Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections. There is currently no vaccine or treatment for the virus.
Travelers who think they may be ill with Zika virus should consult their health care provider. Public health officials will coordinate testing of symptomatic individuals who have returned from a Zika-affected area.
DPHHS has created a website page with Zika virus information. The page includes a direct link to CDC for information about how to prevent Zika virus, symptoms, and detailed information for health care providers, facts sheets and more. Go to www.dphhs.mt.gov