Today, the Louisiana Department of Health has confirmed one additional case of Zika virus. As in all of the other cases in Louisiana, this patient travelled to a region with ongoing Zika transmission and sought medical care in Louisiana after returning, where tests confirmed the viral infection.
This brings the total to 15 cases of travel-associated Zika confirmed in Louisiana. Although the state of Florida today reported there is a “high likelihood” of four locally transmitted cases in that state, this is not the situation in Louisiana. Local transmission occurs when an infected mosquito in the area bites another person in the area and transmits the virus.
The most recent case in Louisiana occurred after an individual traveled to an area with ongoing Zika transmission and was bitten by an infected mosquito. The patient was diagnosed after returning to Louisiana, began to show symptoms and sought treatment. The patient and health care provider have been notified of the Zika-positive result. The patient has recovered and poses no risk to others.
The Department of Health has reported the new case to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and it will soon be included in the CDC's Zika case count for Louisiana. National and state case counts can be found here.
The Florida Situation
According to Dr. Frank Welch, Medical Director for the department’s Bureau of Community Preparedness, the four cases in Florida are not unexpected.
“Health officials have recognized that communities and regions with a large population of travelers to areas with active Zika transmission are most at-risk for having local cases. We fully expected this, but are working to prevent it,” he explained. ”Knowing that the virus is spreading in Florida is causing us to redouble our prevention efforts aimed at educating travelers, the health care community and working with mosquito districts and the public to reduce mosquito populations.”
Welch added that Louisiana has a plan to detect local transmission of the Zika virus if and when it occurs, and respond as quickly as possible to minimize and prevent additional transmission.
The early detection of Zika virus is a key strategy to prevent its spread. This is accomplished through several surveillance activities; working with hospitals and other health care providers who notify the Department of Health if and when a possible Zika case is diagnosed. Also, the department works with mosquito control agencies throughout the state who conduct mosquito testing in areas of known human cases to determine if mosquitos in those areas are carrying the virus.
Avoiding Infection by Zika Virus
Zika virus is of greatest threat to pregnant women, as their child may be at risk for certain severe birth defects as a result of infection. Pregnant women and women trying to get pregnant should avoid travel to areas with Zika transmission. The CDC has a list of travel notices for these areas here. Because Zika can spread through sexual activity, pregnant women should have their partners use a condom correctly every time or abstain from sex.
All travelers to areas where Zika virus is active should be aware and take the following steps to protect themselves from mosquito bites:
- Use an EPA-approved insect repellent.
- Wear light-colored, long sleeves and pants.
- Sleep under a mosquito net if you are outdoors or in an area without door and window screens.
The same precautions apply at home, and people should also make sure their house is mosquito-proof by ensuring their windows and doors have intact screens. Once a week or after every rainfall, empty standing water from any containers around your home, especially in small containers.
For more information about preventing Zika virus, visit ldh.la.gov/zika.
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state residents. To learn more about LDH, visit www.ldh.la.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's Twitter account and Facebook.