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State lab begins testing for Zika, dengue and chikungunya viruses

Earlier this month, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services state laboratory began conducting diagnostic testing for Zika, dengue and chikungunya, which are mosquito-borne viruses.

This represents an expanded effort by the department to identify and monitor new cases of these viruses in Michigan travelers returning from areas where the viruses are currently circulating. These testing services are being provided to healthcare providers in Michigan through the department’s Bureau of Laboratories. It builds on the current testing the Bureau conducts for West Nile, Eastern equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis and La Crosse encephalitis viruses.

Michigan is considered “low risk” for mosquito transmission of Zika, dengue, and chikungunya virus, as the mosquitoes that spread the diseases are not present in the state. Zika is a virus that is newly emerged in the western hemisphere; while its symptoms are not considered severe, the virus can cause birth defects in fetuses of pregnant women exposed to the virus. To date, there have been three travel-related cases reported in Michigan; none in pregnant women.

Dengue and chikungunya viruses can also infect people who travel to areas where these viruses are present in mosquitoes. These areas include tropical and sub-tropical destinations. There were 14 cases of dengue and eight cases of chikungunya reported in Michigan in 2015. All cases of dengue and chikungunya were in travelers returning from areas with ongoing transmission.

Zika, dengue and chikungunya virus disease are reportable conditions in Michigan. Healthcare providers and laboratories must report suspect and confirmed cases of these viruses to a local public health department.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising those traveling to foreign countries to exercise caution because of the Zika virus, particularly pregnant women. It recommends:

*Pregnant women should not travel to areas with active Zika transmission. If they must travel, they should take precautions to prevent mosquito bites.

*For non-pregnant women and men who travel and experience no symptoms, it is recommended they avoid pregnancy for eight weeks.

*For men who return from travel and do have symptoms, it is recommended they use condoms for six months.

*Men who have a pregnant partner and have been in an area with Zika transmission should either use condoms the right way every time they have sex, or not have sex for the duration of the pregnancy.

For the most current information about Zika, visit www.cdc.gov/zika.

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