Zika virus spreading; one case confirmed in Va.

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The number of Zika cases has jumped in the U.S. to 32 across a dozen states, including one here in Virginia.

World Health officials say the mosquito-borne disease is now in 23 countries and territories, and they fear up to four million people could eventually be affected.

“We have confirmed one case of what we call an imported case where one individual traveled outside of the United States and returned to Virginia and has been lab-confirmed with the infection,” explained Dr. Laurie Forlano, State Epidemiologist for the Virginia Department of Health.

Only one case of Zika has surfaced in Virginia, but it’s only a matter of time before there are more. State health officials are ramping up disease surveillance as the number of cases in the U.S. and other parts of the world climbs.

“Cases of suspected Zika virus will be reported to us from health care providers around the state,” Forlano added. “Testing for that infection needs to be facilitated through the state public health lab and health department.”

Zika is a widespread problem in Brazil with over a million cases, including 4,000 involving babies. The disease is believed to affect fetal brain development.

“It’s scary because obviously you want your child to be healthy and you want to be able to have a healthy child,” Virginia resident Katlyn Wesner said.

Officials say the infected Virginia resident took a trip to Central America and was bit by a disease-carrying mosquito. The disease cannot be transmitted person-to-person.

The bottom line, officials say, is if you’re planning a trip, you should learn how to protect yourself before you go.

A few of those precaution include:

  • wearing bug repellent
  • wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts to prevent mosquito bites
  • Staying inside as much as possible

Meanwhile, many airlines and cruise companies are offering refunds for trips to Zika-affected areas.

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