BATON ROUGE – Over the past week, the Louisiana Department of Health has confirmed five additional cases of Zika virus. Each patient had travelled to a region with ongoing Zika transmission and sought medical care in Louisiana after returning, where tests confirmed the viral infection.
This brings the total to 14 cases of travel-associated Zika confirmed in Louisiana. There have been no confirmed cases of local transmission within Louisiana.
After travelling to an area with ongoing Zika transmission, the patients returned to Louisiana and began to show symptoms of an illness, prompting the individual to seek treatment. Each patient and their health care provider have been notified of the Zika-positive result.
The Department of Health has reported the new cases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and they will soon be included in the CDC’s Zika case count for Louisiana. National and state case counts can be found here.
The early detection of Zika virus is a key strategy to prevent its spread. This is accomplished through several surveillance activities; working with hospitals and other health care providers who notify the Department of Health if and when a possible Zika case is diagnosed. Also, the department works with mosquito control personnel throughout the state who conduct mosquito testing to see if mosquitos are carrying the virus.
Dr. Frank Welch, Medical Director for the department’s Center for Community Preparedness, says the goal is to have robust early warning systems in place that will allow the State to know if a local Zika infection has occurred so the public can be warned.
Avoiding Infection by Zika Virus
Zika virus is of greatest threat to pregnant women, as their child may be at risk for certain severe birth defects as a result of infection. Pregnant women and women trying to get pregnant should avoid travel to areas with Zika transmission. The CDC has a list of travel notices for these areas here. Because Zika can spread from an infected man to his sex partner, pregnant women should have their male partners use a condom correctly every time or abstain from sex.
All travelers to areas where Zika virus is active should be aware and take the following steps to protect themselves from mosquito bites:
- Use an EPA-approved insect repellent.
- Wear light-colored, long sleeves and pants.
- Sleep under a mosquito net if you are outdoors or in an area without door and window screens.
The same precautions apply at home, and people should also make sure their house is mosquito-proof by ensuring their windows and doors have intact screens. Once a week or after every rainfall, empty standing water from any containers around your home, especially in small containers.
For more information about preventing Zika virus, visit ldh.la.gov/zika.