Iowa health officials have reported the first Zika virus case in the state Friday, The patient is an older adult female with recent travel history to Central America.

Iowa Image/National Atlas of the United States
Image/National Atlas of the United States

“The general public is not at risk of contracting this virus, because the mosquitoes that transmit Zika are not established in Iowa,” said Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. “However, Iowans traveling to areas where there is ongoing Zika virus transmission should take care to protect themselves from mosquito bites.”

The CDC is currently advising pregnant women to delay travel to foreign countries where Zika is being transmitted. There have been reports of a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly (meaning small head) and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant. Women who are trying to become pregnant should talk to their doctor about their plans to become pregnant and the risk of Zika virus infection. The CDC is currently recommending that if your male sexual partner has traveled to or lives in an area with active Zika virus transmission you should abstain from sex or use condoms the right way every time you have vaginal, anal, and oral sex for the duration of the pregnancy.

The CDC is investigating a possible link between Zika virus infection and Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare neurological condition which causes varying degrees of paralysis; in addition, mosquitoes in areas where Zika transmission is ongoing may also carry diseases like dengue or chikungunya. Therefore, any traveler (males, females and children) visiting areas with ongoing Zika transmission should carefully follow steps to avoid mosquito bites:

  • Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants
  • Using EPA-registered insect repellents
  • Using permethrin-treated clothing
  • Staying and sleeping in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms
  • Avoid or limit outdoor activities during peak mosquito times.

The Zika virus illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week and hospitalizations are rare. Most people exposed to Zika virus won’t develop any symptoms at all. There is currently no vaccine or treatment for the virus.

From January 1, 2015 – February 17, 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) received reports of 82 Zika cases, all travel associated, from 21 states and DC.