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First Case Of Zika Virus Confirmed In Kansas

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

State health officials announced Friday that a southwest Kansas resident contracted the Zika virus after the resident traveled to an unspecified country where the pathogen has spread.

It’s the first confirmed case of Zika virus disease in Kansas.

Though a few cases of the virus in the United States have been spread through sexual contact, the vast majority of cases worldwide have been spread by mosquitos. So far, no transmission of the disease by mosquitos has been identified in the continental U.S.

Cassie Sparks, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Health and the Environment, says the spread of the virus via mosquitos in Kansas is still highly unlikely, but the state is taking precautions.

“We’ve been prepared for Zika virus to have a case here and working with health care providers across the state to respond to both suspected and confirmed cases,” Sparks says.

KDHE provided no further details on the Kansas case, including whether the patient is a male or female and where he or she lives.

Zika has provoked alarm by its rapid spread in South America and in Brazil in particular. Although the virus causes relatively mild symptoms in most healthy people, the virus can cause brain defects in infants, including microcephaly, a neurological condition characterized by babies born with abnormally small heads.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned pregnant women against traveling to countries where Zika has spread.

Sparks advises anyone traveling to those countries to take measures to avoid mosquito bites.

The first Zika case in Missouri was confirmed last Friday in a patient who had traveled to Haiti. Kansas City health officials say the individual is not a local resident.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it's unable to predict how much the virus might spread in the continental United States. While many areas have the type of mosquitos that can spread the virus, the agency saysthat "recent outbreaks in the continental United States of chikungunya and dengue, which are spread by the same type of mosquito, have been relatively small and limited to a small area."

Alex Smith is a reporter for Heartland Health Monitor, a reporting collaboration based at KCUR.

As a health care reporter, I aim to empower my audience to take steps to improve health care and make informed decisions as consumers and voters. I tell human stories augmented with research and data to explain how our health care system works and sometimes fails us. Email me at alexs@kcur.org.
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