MDHHS confirms 69 cases of Zika virus among Michigan travelers
For many Michigan residents, the winter months often include travel to warmer climates. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is urging travelers to protect themselves from Zika virus while travelling to places with active Zika transmission. Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of infected Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, which have not been found in Michigan, but are common in tropical areas and some parts of the United States.
This year, the CDC is making it possible for you to get travel updates about the Zika virus on the go. By texting PLAN to 855-255-5606, you’ll receive helpful tips on how to:
- Pack and plan for your trip.
- Stay protected on your trip.
- Stay healthy when you return home.
“Before you travel, find out if Zika virus is a risk at your planned destination,” said Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive with the MDHHS. “Pregnant women and couples who are planning to conceive in the near future should avoid nonessential travel to areas with active Zika virus transmission because infection during pregnancy is linked to serious birth defects and miscarriage. Travelers can prevent Zika virus infection by taking precautions to avoid mosquito bites.”
People who travel to an area with Zika should:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Stay and sleep in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens.
- If your plans include travel to more remote areas, take along a permethrin-treated bed net to use while sleeping.
- Use EPA-registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or paramenthane-diol, or 2-undecanone.
To date, Michigan has confirmed 69 cases of Zika virus disease in travelers, including three pregnant women. In the U.S., over 1,200 pregnant women have been identified with possible Zika infection, resulting in 41 Zika-affected infants to date. MDHHS is participating in the U.S. Zika Pregnancy Registry, an effort to learn more about the effects of Zika virus infection during pregnancy.
All of the Zika cases in Michigan are travel related. While the virus is primarily transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, it’s important that residents of reproductive age are aware of the risks associated with sexual transmission of Zika virus. Zika can be spread through sex without a condom. Most cases of sexual transmission have involved people who had symptoms of Zika virus infection. However, recent evidence suggests that asymptomatic males may be capable of transmitting Zika virus to their sex partners.
There is currently no vaccine or treatment for Zika.
Zika virus illness is typically mild. The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes) lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Zika has also been linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), an uncommon condition of the nervous system following infections.
Zika virus is an emerging disease and recommendations are changing as new information becomes available. The CDC currently recommends the following for travelers:
- 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 who travel to areas with active Zika transmission, it is recommended they prevent pregnancy for at least eight weeks from symptom onset (if ill) or last possible exposure (if illness does not develop).
- For men who return from travel, it is recommended they use condoms and avoid conception for at least six months, regardless of whether they develop an illness consistent with Zika virus disease.
- Men who have been in an area with active Zika virus transmission and have a pregnant partner should either use condoms the right way every time they have sex, or not have sex for the duration of the pregnancy.
MDHHS is working closely with the CDC to find additional Zika cases in returning travelers or their partners, and is coordinating with local health departments to enhance mosquito surveillance programs.
Additionally, the MDHHS laboratory has added capacity to test for Zika infection to help improve public health response time. For the most current information about Zika, visit www.cdc.gov/zika.
Statewide case counts and Michigan-specific information can be found on the MDHHS Zika webpage www.michigan.gov/zika. MDHHS will provide updates on the total number of cases statewide, including the number of pregnant women. Additional information about the cases will not be made available due to health privacy concerns.
National statistics about pregnancies and pregnancy outcomes are available on the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/pregnancy-outcomes.html.
For information about Zika in a specific Michigan county, contact the local health department.