The Alabama Department of Public Health reports the first confirmed travel-related case of Zika virus in an Alabama resident. The positive specimen was from a resident of Morgan County. Tests are being conducted from Alabama resident specimens with a travel history to areas where Zika virus outbreaks are ongoing. In addition to the one positive, there has been one negative result and four test results are pending.

Alabama/National Atlas of the United States
Alabama/National Atlas of the United States

“We knew it was only a matter of time before we would have the first positive case of an individual in Alabama with Zika virus,” Acting State Health Officer Dr. Tom Miller said. “Given the frequency of international travel to affected areas, we anticipate having additional positive cases. We are working with the medical community to identify high-risk individuals.”

Zika virus is transmitted primarily through the bites of Aedes species mosquitoes. These mosquitoes are the same species that transmit dengue and chikungunya viruses which have also been associated with travel-related illness over the past few years. There have been recent reports that Zika virus may also be spread through blood transfusion and sexual contact. Rarely, the virus may spread from mother to infant around the time of birth. It also may be possible to spread the virus from a mother to her baby during pregnancy.

Infection with the Zika virus causes only mild symptoms in the majority of the cases, but an apparent link to birth defects and other pregnancy-related poor outcomes has been associated with infection during pregnancy. In response to concern about the Zika virus, state agencies and other key stakeholders have been alerted.

“We are focusing on pregnant women and women in the reproductive age range who may become pregnant,” Dr. Miller said. All pregnant women with a history of travel to an area with Zika virus transmission should be evaluated. Pregnant women reporting clinical illness consistent with Zika virus disease during or within 2 weeks of travel should be tested for Zika virus infection. In addition, asymptomatic pregnant women who have traveled to Zika-affected areas should be tested for the Zika-virus between 2-12 weeks post travel.