A female laboratory researcher at the University of Pittsburgh returned to work after contracting the Zika virus and marking the first case of an infection in a lab, The New York Times reported. The researcher accidentally stuck herself with a needle during an experiment and her identity has not been released.
The infection occurred on May 23 but the researcher showed no symptoms until June 1, university spokesman Joe Miksch said. The school stated in a statement that she went back to work five days after she no longer had a fever, according to ABC News.
The woman did not contract the virus through sexual transmission or after returning from a trip to an affected area, the Allegheny County Health Department declared. Miksch said the presence of the Zika virus was confirmed in a blood sample and clarified that the researcher had gone back to work on June 6.
The researcher has to use insect repellent for at least three weeks and wearing long sleeves and pants will also protect her by reducing the chance that a mosquito will bite her and spread the virus to others around her.
Including the woman’s infection, this marks the fourth confirmed case of Zika in Allegheny County, located in the southwestern part of Pennsylvania. The Health Department noted that the other three people had been infected abroad, which is why officials remark that there are no reasons to believe there could be additional cases in the region.
“We want to remind residents that, despite this rare incident, there is still no current risk of contracting Zika from mosquitoes in Allegheny County,” Dr. Karen Hacker, head of the Allegheny County Health Department, told The New York Times in a telephone interview held Friday.
However, county officials strongly advised residents to use insect repellent containing DEET and to remove standing water immediately, where the mosquitoes are known for breeding in.
Because there is no vaccine or even treatment for Zika, Dr. Hacker warned that people who have plans to travel to affected areas should be very careful. The virus is mainly transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito that is native to warm climates.
Zika, which causes mild fever, rash, and red eyes, is closely related to diseases such as chikungunya and dengue. It can also cause joint pain and conjunctivitis, but about 80 percent of people infected do not develop symptoms. The have been reports of fatal complications and paralysis in adults led by a rare neurological syndrome called Guillain-Barre.
The World Health Organization (WHO) admitted this week that it was a tough task to fight Zika due to the lack of a vaccine. It warned women in affected areas should delay pregnancy to avoid microcephaly and birth defect associated with the virus, which can also lead to babies with severe developmental issues.
The WHO has confirmed the link between Zika and microcephaly, and there have been more than 1,400 confirmed cases of this anomaly that is directly connected to Zika infections in the mothers.
The U.S. getting ready for the first homegrown Zika cases
The hundreds of Zika cases reported in the United States so far have been people who were infected in the Caribbean and in Central and South America, the region where the epidemic has reached alarming rates. Still health experts warn that the virus most certainly will begin to spread in American Southern states this summer.
The imminent US outbreak led Congress to announce earlier this week a $1.1 billion effort to fight the virus and the insects that carry it, as Senator Mitch McConnel said Wednesday.
The Obama administration had sought $1.9 billion before the Senate authorized $1.1 billion last month.
Health officials said Friday the federal government will soon release a proposal for responding to the first cases of the Zika virus originated on American soil, according to a report by The New York Times.
Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the document is expected to be released next week, remarking that it was a non-definite draft vulnerable to changes based on recommendations from state officials.
“We know that Zika is a completely unprecedented problem and the front-line response is going to be crucial,” as said in an interview by Dr. Anne Schuchat, the C.D.C.’s deputy director. “The summer is starting, and the mosquitoes are coming,” she commented, as quoted by The Times.
In spite of the alarm, health officials have raised, they do not believe a Zika transmission as explosive in the U.S. as it was in Brazil, since most families in this country keep their home’s windows closed, and they have an air conditioner.
Moreover, the United States is not as densely populated as Brazilian areas that served as the epicenter of the latest Zika outbreak. This fact is important because the Aedes aegypti, the mosquito responsible for spreading the virus, usually stays in just one block during its short life.
The primary goal in the U.S. will be keeping families same in spite of the fact that as much as 80 percent of people infected do not develop symptoms, which makes the virus so difficult to combat.
Source: New York Times