The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported Friday on the state’s first case of Zika virus infection by sexual transmission.

Pennsylvania map/ National Atlas of the United States
Pennsylvania map/ National Atlas of the United States

“A Pennsylvania resident contracted the Zika virus from a mosquito while traveling outside of the state in an area where Zika transmission is occurring.” said Secretary Karen Murphy. “Upon returning to the commonwealth, the person passed it via sexual transmission to their partner. In light of this, we remind residents to practice safe sex, especially if they have traveled to an area with Zika-infected mosquitoes. Infections with the Zika virus may be present without symptoms.  If you have traveled to an area where Zika virus is present, condoms or other barrier protection methods should be used during sex for 8 weeks upon return to prevent sexual transmission.  Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should discuss with their doctors any travel plans to Zika-affected locations.”

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause mild symptoms including fever, rash, joint pain, and pink eye. Zika rarely kills or causes serious disease. However, the virus presents a major threat to pregnant women or women who plan to become pregnant. Zika infection during pregnancy has been linked to serious birth defects including microcephaly, which causes newborns to be born with heads smaller than normal.

Other measures that people can take to prevent mosquito bites include:

  • Applying an EPA-registered insect repellent to exposed skin and clothing;
  • Wearing light-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that covers hands, arms, legs and other exposed skin;
  • Staying and sleeping in air-conditioned or screened rooms or under a mosquito net when outdoors; and
  • Staying indoors when mosquitoes are most active.

At this time, no cases of Zika in Pennsylvania have occurred as a result of local mosquito transmission. As temperatures remain high in the commonwealth throughout the late summer months, there remains risk of limited local transmission of Zika virus by an affected mosquito.

Through Sep. 7, Pennsylvania has reported 95 travel associated Zika virus cases and one laboratory acquired case. Prior to this report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported 24 sexually transmitted Zika virus cases in the country.