Zika virus confirmed in Maryland

Posted at 11:24 PM, Feb 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-12 07:00:48-05

The state of Maryland has its first confirmed case of the Zika virus.

Officials with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene have not said whether it’s a man or a woman, but since the outbreak started, the impact of Zika has focused primarily on pregnant women and their babies.

In Brazil -- the center of the outbreak -- there are more than 1.5-million confirmed Zika cases, and there's been more than 4000 cases of Brazilian women with Zika giving birth to babies with microcephaly -- an unusually small head and brain.

The CDC has gone to its highest level of alert, and highlighted dozens of countries where Zika has been detected.

Related: Maryland confirms state's first case of Zika virus

Now, state health officials say a person who traveled to Central America returned home to Maryland, and tested positive for the virus.

“I think this was simply an inevitably. It was just a matter of time before, through testing we discovered our first case of Zika in a Marylander who has traveled,” said Dr. Howard Haft, of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

To protect the patient's privacy, they have not said whether the so-called "index case" is a man or a woman -- or what part of the state he or she lives in.
So far 17 people in Maryland have been tested for Zika.  Two of the tests were negative; first positive test was confirmed today, and officials are still waiting for results on the other 14.

Baltimore City's health commissioner said she is working with the state and the CDC to coordinate testing and prevention efforts -- especially for pregnant women.

“If they are going to these countries and they are pregnant they should consult their doctor and make a decision together with her doctor,” said the commissioner, Dr. Leana Wen.

Mosquitos carry the Zika virus.  Usually, an infection brings only with flu-like symptoms that last no more than a week.

That's why the major concern continues to be for pregnant women who travel to tropical climates.      

“This is really not cause for alarm or panic,” Dr. Haft said.