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First Case of Zika Virus Confirmed in Tennessee

The first case of Zika virus is confirmed in Tennessee by the State Department of Health. (dodgertonskillhause/morguefile.com)
The first case of Zika virus is confirmed in Tennessee by the State Department of Health. (dodgertonskillhause/morguefile.com)
February 10, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The first case of Zika virus has been reported in Tennessee the state Department of Health announced late Tuesday. The individual had traveled to South America prior to returning to east Tennessee.

Dr. Tim Jones, state epidemiologist, says the state was prepared for the likely development.

"We are not at all surprised," says Jones. "We predicted this and I'm quite certain that we will continue to see cases in returning travelers."

Jones says it's important to note that except in pregnant women, Zika virus is almost always a mild illness. About 80 percent of those infected never show symptoms. There is no vaccine to prevent infection, but warning signs are fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes. The Department of Health advises travelers going to warmer climates in the Caribbean and South and Central America to take extra precautions against mosquitoes, which are the main source of transmission of the virus.

Jones says Zika poses the most direct risk to people who travel to the affected areas.

"There's a small chance that if a person comes back while they're infected, that in the next few days if a mosquito bites them, they could possibly transmit it to others," he says. "But I don't think this will become widespread with permanent circulation in our state."

There are a variety of insect repellents available to protect against mosquito bites, including products applied directly to skin and clothing.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN