First Arizonan diagnosed with Zika virus

Posted at 4:19 PM, Mar 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-29 07:23:07-04

State and county health officials reported Monday the first case of the Zika virus in Arizona.

The woman, who lives in Maricopa County, traveled outside of the United States to an area known to harbor the Zika virus before developing symptoms of illness.

"We have been expecting a travel associated case of Zika virus and we believe more infections are likely as people travel to and from areas where the disease is currently being transmitted," said Cara Christ, MD, MS, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services in a news release.

The virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, has symptoms which may mimic the flu, including fever, joint pain and rash. Cases of severe illness and hospitalization are rare, officials said.

"As soon as public health (officials) became aware of the suspect case, the individual was contacted to ensure she stayed indoors and avoided being bitten by mosquitoes to prevent further spread of the virus," said Bob England, MD, MPH, director of Maricopa County Department of Public Health. 

One type of mosquito known to transmit the Zika virus is native to Arizona, though health officials said there was no evidence of the virus being transmitted in the state.

Zika is far from the only dangerous pathogen carried by mosquitoes. That means the state's plan for Zika isn't much different than how it would handle other diseases they carry.

"It's the same response plan. We've been able to keep local transmission of those diseases at bay, so we were able to respond quickly because we already had a plan in place for those diseases," Christ said.

The virus has been linked to birth defects in pregnant women, especially microcephaly--a defect which causes an abnormally small brain.

Authorities stressed the importance of wearing insect repellant when traveling to areas known to contain the Zika virus.