A Wisconsin resident who traveled to Honduras has contracted the Zika virus infection, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

DHS officials are not disclosing where the person lives because of confidentiality reasons.

“In addition to HIPAA, we are bound by state confidentiality laws that prohibit us from sharing personal health information. The law states disclosure is not allowed unless it is reasonably necessary to protect another from harm,” said Julie Lund, communications director for the Department of Health Services in an email.

The woman recently traveled to Honduras, which is where a number of mosquitoes are infected with the Zika virus. In the United States, over 500 people have the virus after they traveled outside the U.S. to areas that have the illness. None of those people acquired the virus locally, according to DHS.

“Wisconsin is one of the last states to have a confirmed case of Zika virus infection detected in a resident, but we have been actively preparing for the likelihood that this day would come,” said State Health Officer Karen McKeown. “Together with partners we have been working to prepare our Zika virus response plans.

“This includes testing more than 300 people who have traveled to countries with known Zika virus transmission, and monitoring for the presence of mosquitoes that may carry Zika virus. We will remain vigilant in our response to ensure the safety and health of all Wisconsinites, particularly pregnant women and unborn babies, who are most at risk.”

The virus is transmitted when people are bitten by an infected mosquito. But the virus can also spread from mother to unborn child, sexual contact and blood transfusions. The state has been monitoring the mosquito population through a surveillance program, but it has not identified any mosquitoes carrying the virus in Wisconsin.

DHS has been working with the Center for Disease Control, local health departments, health care professionals and the Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene on the issue. Because the greatest risk the virus poses is to pregnant women and their unborn babies, the state has conducted outreach efforts with health care providers for pregnant women. The Zika virus can cause infants to be born with smaller heads because the brain has not be able to develop properly.

Of those who contract the virus, about 80 percent do not have symptoms. Those who do develop symptoms, usually get them within three to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. The symptoms include: fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis (red eyes), muscle pain or headache. Serious complications are extremely rare, according to the press release by DHS.

The CDC recommends that pregnant women should not travel to areas where the Zika virus is present.

 

To protect yourself from mosquito bites, DHS recommends the following:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, and shoes.
  • Use EPA-registered insect repellants and apply according to the label instructions.
  • Stay and sleep in places with air conditioning and screened-in windows.
  • Avoid being outside during times of high mosquito activity, specifically around dawn and dusk.
  • Prevent standing water in your yard by disposing discarded tires, cans, plastic containers; draining standing water from pool or hot tub covers; turning over plastic wading pools and wheel barrows when not in use; keeping drains, ditches and culverts clean of trash and weeds so water will drain properly; and cleaning gutters to ensure they drain properly.

Residents are asked to consult a physician if they develop a fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes during a trip, or within two weeks after traveling to a place with Zika virus(link is external), or if you have had sexual contact with an individual who has traveled to a place with Zika virus. Pregnant women without symptoms that have traveled to an affected Zika virus area should contact their physicians for possible Zika virus testing.

For more information, go to the DHS Zika virus webpage.

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.