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Philadelphia has witnessed its first case of the Zika virus — a 60-year-old woman returning from the Caribbean. 

Credit: Courtesy of Pixabay

Yesterday the Philadelphia Department of Public Health reported that the first case of Zika virus was identified in Philadelphia.

The patient was a woman over 60 years old who had recently returned from a visit to the Caribbean. Her physician was able to treat her symptoms of fever, aches and a rash without hospitalization.

The virus is most often transmitted from the bite of an infection-carrying mosquito that is found in some regions of the United States. Less commonly, Zika can also be transmitted by sexual activity, in a similar manner to an STD, or from affected mother to her unborn child. This maternal-fetal transmission has been linked to a debilitating birth defect called microcephaly, which causes a child to be born with an abnormally small head.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention approximates that more than 100 people in the U.S. have contracted the infection following travel to affected areas. Countries that are currently under CDC travel warnings include parts of the Caribbean and Central America, Mexico and many South American countries. Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela are among the most impacted.

Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.), who led a 2013 effort to reestablish an outbreak preparedness law, released a statement yesterday calling on the national government to take action in the wake of the confirmed case in Philadelphia.

“Today’s announcement of the first known Zika case in Philadelphia underscores the need for Congress to come together to approve the emergency preparedness and response funding necessary for our nation to address the outbreak and protect those most at risk,” he said. “This supplemental funding would support readiness, response capacity in state, prevention and education. We can’t wait for more confirmed cases and victims; the time is now.”

With spring break only days away, traveling students will need to remain aware of the risks of Zika. Individuals can take steps to avoid Zika. Health professionals and the CDC recommend that pregnant women cancel travel plans to affected areas while Zika outbreak warnings stand. Anyone planning to visit affected countries should take preventative measures against mosquito bites. Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, using a mosquito net and consistently applying insect repellent are all simple means of protection.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the mosquito that carries the Zika infection is not found in the United States, and that the virus has shown to lead to microcephaly. The article has been updated to reflect that the infection-carrying mosquito can be found in some regions of the United States, and that the virus is currently linked to microcephaly, but is not a direct cause. The DP regrets the error.

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