The Zika Virus Moves North: First Case in Tennessee

On February 9, the Tennessee Department of Health verified that an individual tested positive for Zika.

The Zika virus, which has primarily populated Central and South American countries, is making more appearances in the United States with the latest case being confirmed in Tennessee.

On February 9, the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) verified that an individual tested positive for Zika after returning to the state from South America. Further information on the patient is not available at this time.

“We have been expecting an imported case of Zika virus disease and we believe more infections are likely as people travel to and from areas where the disease is currently being transmitted,” TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH, said in a statement.

There have been multiple Zika cases in the US — including at least nine in New York, one in Hawaii, and the first sexually transmitted case in Texas. The virus is particularly concerning in pregnant women since it is strongly linked with microcephaly — a condition where infants are born with smaller-than-normal brain and head size. Recent research also linked Zika with vision-threatening ocular problems in children with microcephaly.

“Zika virus, with its association with the birth defect microcephaly, is understandably scary and has captured all of our attention. But the good news is mosquito bites which transmit Zika are entirely preventable,” Dreyzehner continued.

There is no preventive vaccine or specific treatment for Zika, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that travelers use mosquito repellant and wear long clothing when avoidance of infected countries isn’t possible.

Only one in five people with Zika actually become ill and symptoms align with those of many other conditions — such as fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). However, anyone with symptoms and travel history should consult their health care provider immediately.