Public-HealthThe first confirmed case of the Zika virus has been identified in Iowa.

Department of Public Health medical director Patricia Quinlisk says an older woman who traveled to Central America recently developed some symptoms and she tested positive for Zika.

The woman is said to be in the 61 to 80-year-old range, but other information about her is being withheld. The Zika virus is spread by mosquitoes, but Doctor Quinlisk says it is not a big worry for Iowans.

“This is not a virus that is in our mosquitoes, nor is there any risk of getting it here in Iowa,” Quinlisk says. “But if they are planning to travel to the Caribbean, Central-South America, they do need to take precautions to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes. And that’s not just for Zika virus, but also from some other viruses that mosquitoes can carry.” Quinlisk says the biggest concern about the Zika virus is the impact on pregnant women and their children.

“There’s quite a bit of scientific evidence showing that if a woman is pregnant that the fetus could develop what’s called microcephaly or small head. Which of course has long-term complications and concerns about it,” Quinlisk says. “So, right not the CDC is recommending that if any woman is pregnant, for them not to travel down to the Caribbean, Central America, South America.”

Doctor Quinlisk says there is also a concern about sexual transmission of the disease. She says there have been some instances in the U.S. of a man traveling to the countries with Zika and then transmitting it after they have sex with their partner. “So, right now we are recommending that if a male has traveled and they are coming back –especially if their partner is pregnant — they should either defer having sexual relationships, or use some kind of a barrier method to ensure that they don’t transmit the virus to their partner. And that should continue during their whole pregnancy, since we don’t know how long the man might carry it.”

The CDC is investigating a possible link between Zika virus infection and Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare neurological condition which causes varying degrees of paralysis. Quinlisk says though, most people don’t have any problems.

“About 80 percent of them will have no symptoms at all — not even know that they got it. About 20 percent will have symptoms of a fever, maybe a rash, eye infections, a redness of the eye, things like that that will last a couple of days,” Quinlisk explains. “But, it is not something that is a serious concern for most healthy adults.” There is currently no vaccine or treatment for the virus.

To learn more about Zika virus, including a link to a Zika-affected travel map, visit the Iowa Department of Public Health’s website.