PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – To date there has been no confirmed Zika virus infections identified in Pennsylvania. There are 6-8 tests pending of individuals who’ve returned to Pennsylvania from the areas that have been affected by the Zika virus.
Still, health officials statewide are taking no chances when it comes to Zika.
The World Health Organization says as many as four million people in North, South and Latin America, as well as island nations in the Caribbean, could end up being infected in this outbreak.
Since it’s spread by a certain type of mosquito, anyone can get Zika. But the biggest concern is for pregnant women, as well as those who could become pregnant.
That’s because a recent spike in the number of Zika cases in Brazil seems to correlate with a spike in the number of cases of babies being born with severe birth defects, mostly microcephaly.
That’s when babies are born with abnormally small heads, which often implies other problems with neurological development.
The symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain and pink eye, but many times there are no symptoms at all.
“Only about 20%, so 1 in 5, patients who gets infected with zika virus will be symptomatic,” says Dr. Stephen Colodny.
Pregnant women who’ve been in the affected countries in the past three to six months should have a conversation with their doctor.
If they develop symptoms, they should be screened.
Right now, only the CDC has a test for Zika, so it’ll take about two weeks to get the results.
So what is the state health department doing right now? Primarily keeping everyone informed.
But when the weather starts to warm up in the spring, efforts will be ramped up.
“We’re definitely going to double down on our efforts to monitor mosquitoes once spring comes and a lot will depend on how warm of a spring and summer we get. We’ll be working with the department to coordinate our tracking of mosquitoes and making sure that we’re doing the most that we can to keep Pennsylvania safe and aware of if these mosquitoes arrive in our area and if they’re carrying Zika virus,” said Colodny.
As of right now, the primary mosquito that carries Zika is not found anywhere in Pennsylvania.
There currently is no treatment and no vaccine for Zika, however, U.S. health officials say they’ve now identified two potential vaccines and hope to begin clinical trials.