A Louisville man recently tested positive for the Zika virus. The patient recently returned from a trip to Central America. Currently, all positive results in the region have been in people who traveled to countries where the virus is spreading.
Zika virus was first discovered in 1947 in the Zika forest in Uganda. The first known human case was seen in 1952, but remained relatively unknown until 2007. It is likely that infection has occurred during the 55 year span, but since the symptoms are very similar to other diseases, the virus went unrecognized.
It is not known how long it takes to develop symptoms after being infected, but most people never know they are sick. Symptoms include fever, rash, joint and muscle pain, headache and conjunctivitis (pink eye). Symptoms can last for up to a week. Symptoms are similar to other mosquito-transmitted viruses found in tropical areas. There is no vaccine to prevent infection and there is no specific medicine to treat the virus. Doctors treat the symptoms: increase fluids to stay hydrated, acetaminophen to reduce fever, and rest. It is believed that once infected, a person is protected from future infections.
The virus is spread to humans through infected mosquitos. While this is the most common route of infection, pregnant women are able to pass the virus to the fetus. There have also been documented cases of men spreading the virus during sexual contact since the virus can be found in semen, even if it is not detected in the blood. The virus can also be transmitted through blood transfusions, however, no report of this has been confirmed in the United States.
If you have recently traveled to a country in the area where the virus is spreading, you should contact your health care provider if you start to display any symptoms.