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WEST CHESTER — The Zika virus has officially reached Chester County as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notified the Chester County Health Department late Monday and announced publicly on Tuesday.
The patient is a resident of the county, who recently traveled to the Dominican Republic, an area affected with mosquitoes carrying the virus.
She was not hospitalized and has recovered, according to county spokeswoman Rebecca Brain.
The woman, who is not pregnant, is the 23rd case of travel-associated Zika virus in Pennsylvania. There have not been any locally-acquired cases, though the CDC warns imported cases could result in local spread.
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“For anyone traveling to countries affected by the Zika virus, we urge caution and note that pregnant women, in particular, should avoid travel to affected countries,” said Jeanne Casner, director of the county Health Department, in a release.
Recently, U.S. Reps. Ryan Costello, R-6, of West Goshen, and Susan Brooks, R-5, of Indiana, met with county officials to discuss the virus.
At the meeting on June 11, Casner said the department fields about a dozen calls a week from people who are concerned they may have the virus, though at that time, none were confirmed.
After receiving confirmation from the CDC, the woman was advised by the county Health Department of protective measures to reduce the risk of further mosquito bites.
“Here in Chester County, mosquito prevention starts with each and every one of us,” Casner said. “Protect yourself, your family and your community from Zika and other viruses by using screens on the exterior of your home, use insect repellent, eliminate standing water inside and outside your home and wear long-sleeved shirts and pants.”
According to the CDC, the Zika virus spreads to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, though people can also get the virus through sex with an infected man and can be passed from a pregnant woman to the fetus and cause microcephaly, a serious birth defect, and other severe brain defects.
The mosquitos, which spread the Zika virus by biting humans mostly during the daytime, can also spread dengue and chikungunya viruses.
The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis. It is usually mild with the symptoms lasting up to a week after being bitten. Generally, people aren’t sick enough to require hospitalization and very rarely die from it.
There is no vaccine to prevent the virus.
The Zika virus was discovered in 1947, and the first human cases were found in 1952.
Before 2007, according to the CDC, 14 cases were documented, although other cases were likely not reported.
The Pan American Health Organization issued an alert in May 2015 after confirmation of the virus in Brazil. It has since spread to multiple countries, and in February 2016 the World Health Organization declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
Cases of the Zika virus were confirmed in nearby Philadelphia and Montgomery County earlier this year.
Pennsylvania’s neighboring states have all had confirmed cases of the virus: Delaware has had four cases, New Jersey 17, New York 174, Maryland 25, West Virginia six and Ohio 14.
Due to the local case of the virus being travel-associated, Brain said there is no high alert for Chester County, though the Health Department continues to urge residents to take preventative measures, such as using Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellents and staying in places with air conditioning and window and door screens.