The Connecticut Department of Public Health on Friday confirmed the first case of Zika virus in the state.
The patient diagnosed with Zika, who is between 60 and 69 years old, traveled to an area affected by the virus, and upon returning to Connecticut in early March, displayed symptoms of illness, characterized by “skin rash, conjunctivitis, fatigue, chills, headache and muscle aches,” according to a DPH press release. These symptoms align with the most common symptoms of Zika infection.
State officials encouraged vigilance when traveling to areas affected by Zika virus, but reassured Connecticut residents that there is minimal risk of transmission.
“We have been actively taking steps for months to prepare for a positive case, including expedited testing and a coordinated response across agencies,” Gov. Dannel Malloy said in the release. “While the risk of transmission is low, we are nevertheless … continuing that preparation to the extent that we can.”
The DPH, which detected the virus, began testing for Zika virus on February 29 of this year, and 198 samples have been received for testing, with 67 results received so far.
DPH Commissioner Raul Pino encouraged residents to remain vigilant against potential Zika infection and said that the state is monitoring the Zika case, and preparing for potential future cases “with the utmost diligence.”
“News of the first case in Connecticut is cause for concern, but not a reason to panic,” Sen. Chris Murphy said in a statement.
Connecticut residents who plan to travel should refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for information on Zika, such as which populations are most at risk and how to avoid infection, Murphy said.
Zika virus predominantly affects countries in Central and South America, and Zika infection has been associated with paralysis in adults and microcephaly — a congenital condition in which a newborn’s head is smaller than expected — in babies born to mothers who were infected while pregnant. In the areas most affected by Zika, the virus is primarily transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito, the same species responsible for dengue and yellow fever virus transmission.
Of 258 U.S. cases of travel-related Zika virus reported so far in 34 states and the District of Columbia, 18 cases involve pregnant women and another six were sexually transmitted, according to the DPH. There have been no U.S. cases of mosquito-borne Zika virus as of March 16, 2016, according to the CDC.
In the U.S. territories, almost the reverse is the case, with only three reported travel-associated cases compared to 283 reported locally-acquired cases, according to the CDC. The vast majority of these cases were reported in Puerto Rico, which has 249 confirmed cases of the virus, 24 of which involve pregnant women, The New York Times reported.
The first reported case of Zika virus in the U.S. was in Texas. The patient was infected after sexual intercourse with an individual who had traveled to an area affected by the virus.