SHERIDAN – A Sheridan County man tested positive for the Zika virus on Jan. 11 after traveling to the Caribbean earlier this month.
“(The patient) got it on a cruise in the Caribbean and got bitten by mosquitos,” said Dr. John Finley with the South Sheridan Medical Center Urgent Care Clinic. “When they got back they had headache, rash and fever.”
The patient went to one of Finley’s nurse practitioners on Jan. 8, then returned on Jan. 9 to meet with Finley, who took a blood sample for testing with the Wyoming Department of Health.
Surveillance Epidemiologist Katie Bryan with the Wyoming Department of Health confirmed the third case of Zika in a six-month period in Wyoming and the first in Sheridan County. Bryan said the case was an adult male who contracted the virus while traveling. The other two cases occurred in Laramie and Campbell counties in August 2016.
Testing for the Zika virus starts with one blood test. If that test comes back positive, no further testing takes place. With the Sheridan case, the blood test returned positive.
“This patient noticed because of the rash and that’s really why they came in,” Finley said.
Common symptoms of Zika the patient faced included a headache, rash and fever. For most, the virus causes minimal damage and requires little to no treatment.
“Being a virus, there really is no treatment for it. The disease is very minimal as far as when you have it,” Finley said. “Headache, you don’t feel good for a couple days and maybe a rash and then it all goes away. Many, many people who’ve had it didn’t even know it. You don’t feel good one day and the next day you’re fine, you don’t think about it.”
Treatment runs similar to regular treatment for headaches and fevers.
“Usually we just tell patients to make sure they stay hydrated, take some Tylenol for the fever and rest and it’s going to go away,” Finley said.
Zika remains a low-key virus for most but becomes a true scare if women become infected and are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.
“Babies can have several birth defects that are associated primarily with Zika,” Finley said. “These are awful things you don’t want to have.”
Microcephaly is a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Babies with microcephaly often have smaller brains that might not have developed properly. Other conditions include Guillain-Barré syndrome, which the immune system attacks the nerve.
“The current recommendations for women: If you’re pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant, stay out of the Zika places,” Finley said.
The Puerto Rico Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have developed a surveillance system called Zika Active Pregnancy Surveillance System used to evaluate the association between Zika virus infection during pregnancy and adverse outcomes during pregnancy, birth and early childhood up to 3 years old, CDC’s website reads.
The United States, specifically Brownsville, Texas and Florida, Mexico and a majority of South America reported active Zika virus transmissions.
Due to cold winter months in Sheridan, it remains highly unlikely others will contract the virus through mosquito-borne Zika virus transmissions.
While the risk associated with traveling to countries affected by Zika virus transmissions remain extremely high for pregnant or potentially pregnant women, men also need to take heed to potential transmissions through bodily fluids.
“The virus builds up in body fluids; tears, saliva, sweat, semen,” Finley said. “The semen is where it seems to like to live for a long time. Men, if they go (to infected areas), they should not, absolutely not, get a woman pregnant for six months.”
Prevention, in this case, includes abstaining from sexual relations or using birth control.
For those with planned visits to affected areas, awareness and prevention need to sit at the top of the packing list.
Finley suggests using insect repellent with DEET, wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants and remaining aware of surroundings day and night.
CDCs website also suggests checking latest travel recommendations for updates on affected areas.