Ky. health officials discuss response to Zika virus with first in-state case confirmed

03/10/2016 06:00 PM

FRANKFORT — Kentucky health officials are ramping up their efforts to prevent the Zika virus’s spread after the first case of the vector-borne disease was confirmed on Wednesday.

Gov. Matt Bevin, Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson and Dr. Kraig Humbaugh, senior deputy commissioner for the Department for Public Health, said during a Capitol news conference Thursday that only those who’ve traveled to affected areas need to worry about contracting the Zika virus, commonly transmitted through mosquitoes.

The virus has spread primarily in Central and South America, and Kentucky’s Zika patient had returned from a trip to Central American.

Bevin declined to identify the country the patient visited or where he lives in Kentucky, and Humbaugh said he presented signs of fever and rash.

A news release says the man recently returned to the Louisville area from his trip and “is doing well and expected to fully recover from the illness.”

Thursday’s news conference was meant to raise awareness of the virus ahead of the spring travel season, and Glisson said the state has an action plan in case Zika spreads, although officials stressed that Kentucky isn’t at risk.

“I wanted folks to know that, that we do have a plan,” Glisson said. “We feel that we’re prepared. We’re going to continue to prepare that plan.”

Travel-related Zika infections have been reported in every state surrounding Kentucky except for West Virginia, and commonly causes fever, rash, eye redness, soreness and headaches, with symptoms for about a week at most, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some who contract the virus, however, will not show symptoms, according to the CDC and Humbaugh. The CDC says pregnant women or those trying to become pregnant should avoid travel to affected areas, citing concerns with microcephaly, a condition that could cause children’s heads to develop smaller than normal and possibly lead to various other health troubles, including intellectual disabilities.

The virus does not have a vaccine, and it may be transmitted through sexual contact with an affected man.

Glisson said much of the cabinet’s reaction plan involves informing would-be travelers and healthcare providers about the virus.

“We’re reminding clinicians, hospitals and so forth, be watchful in your emergency rooms,” she said. “Be watchful about the patients that may end up in your offices.”

“You may have a patient that may come, and these are the kinds of symptoms you may see, and if you see these symptoms, you need to know that you may need to let us know because they may have the Zika virus,” she continued.

Another aspect of the cabinet’s plan is to monitor and control the mosquito population this year, Glisson said, noting that her agency will look to partner with Kentucky Emergency Management and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture during mosquito season.

Other recommendations to limit exposure to mosquitoes include screening windows, wearing long clothing and using repellents, the health officials said.

“We do have Aedes aegypti (a type of mosquito that transmits Zika) but very small populations from what I understand from our mosquito experts,” Humbaugh said.

“Our entomologists at the University of Kentucky have been advising us on this particular area. However, we have other types of mosquitoes that may be what they call competent vectors. In other words they may be able to spread the disease, but at this point that hasn’t been shown that these other mosquito types are competent vectors.”

For more information on Zika, including affected areas, visit Kentucky Health Alerts here.


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