First Case of Zika Virus Disease Reported in Tennessee - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

First Case of Zika Virus Disease Reported in Tennessee

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UPDATE: More cases of the Zika virus are popping up in the U.S. including the Southeast, the latest number is at 37 and the World Health Organization has called it a "global health emergency."

READ MORE | First case of Zika virus confirmed in Georgia
Officials are now looking at cases in Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia. Zika has been spreading in Brazil and in other Latin American countries since last spring and because of that, health experts are warning against travel to those areas. Infection with the Zika virus causes only mild symptoms in the majority of the cases, but an apparent link to birth defects and other pregnancy-related poor outcomes has been associated with it. Here's what you need to know 

READ MORE | Alabama the latest state with confirmed Zika patient?

" You will have fever, headache, rash, joint pain you may have conjunctivitis or red eyes," said Beth Fullbright, Hamilton County Health Dept. 

We've all heard about the Zika virus symptoms but did you know that only 1 in 5 infected people experience them? Beth Fullbright with the Hamilton County Health Department says everyone traveling to an infected area should be tested, especially if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy. 

"We're recommending that any pregnant woman that has traveled to a Zika infected country be tested so we've had several pregnant women, A-symptomatic we are testing," said Fullbright. 

Health officials have confirmed 1 case in East Tennessee, 1 in Georgia and now 1 in Alabama. Fullbright expects more in our area, she says education is critical right now.

" That's the key to prevention is preventing mosquito bites," said Fullbright. " Use EPA registered insect repellents containing deet, use permethrin-treated clothing, long sleeves, bed netting, screens on your windows."

The Director of Global Perspectives Angeline Mcmullin says since Lee University's undergraduate students are required to have a cultural experience before graduation, many are gearing up to leave the country in a few weeks.

"We have probably a couple of hundred students traveling over spring break either on a Lee Trip or on their own individual travel which we are aware so we could have probably 50-75 who might be going to some of those areas" said Mcmullin. 

Mcmullin says they're taking extra precautions to educate students on their health and wellness abroad. They are monitoring the Zika virus very closely. For now the University's trip to Costa Rica is up in the air. If the virus continues to spread rapidly, they'll  be forced to cancel. 

"It's always a scary when things like this are closer to home, that creates more fear an so we expect that again our job is to reassure people we're aware, we know what's going on and we are paying attention. The safety of our students is our primary concern and we will do whatever it takes to make sure they are prepared and knowledgeable for when they travel and also for just being here at home," said Mcmullin. 

If you have the Zika virus, it's extremely important that you don't get bitten by a mosquito within the first week of your illness. That mosquito can be infected by your blood and then transmit the virus to someone else. The virus can also be sexually transmitted. Anyone wishing to travel, can visit the International Travel Clinic for proper testing/ vaccinations at the Hamilton County Health Dept. 

To learn more about the Zika virus click:  HERE

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Tennessee Department of Health today has received confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the first person in the state to test positive for Zika virus disease. The individual had recently traveled to South America before returning to east Tennessee.

“We have been expecting an imported case of Zika virus disease and we believe more infections are likely as people travel to and from areas where the disease is currently being transmitted,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. "Zika virus, with its association with the birth defect microcephaly, is understandably scary and has captured all of our attention. But the good news is mosquito bites which transmit Zika are entirely preventable. Because there is no vaccine to prevent Zika virus disease and no specific medical treatment for those who are infected, TDH urges all who may be considering travel to the growing number of countries where there is evidence of the disease being transmitted to have heightened awareness and protect themselves and others from mosquito bites.”

The list of affected areas includes many countries in the Caribbean and South and Central America.  The list changes frequently; to see the most current list, go to

READ MORE | Alabama the latest state with confirmed Zika patient

Except in pregnant women, Zika virus is almost always a very mild illness and for most people testing is not necessary. Approximately 80 percent of those infected never show symptoms of the disease while approximately 20 percent show only mild symptoms.

There is no vaccine to prevent infection and no specific antiviral treatment for Zika virus infection. Its most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes. Pregnant women can be infected with Zika virus in any trimester and there have been increased cases of microcephaly possibly associated with Zika virus infections. Microcephaly is a condition where the head is smaller than normal and may lead to a child experiencing a variety of other health challenges including physical and speech functions, seizure, hyperactivity, coordination problems and other brain/neurological disorders. TDH advises women who are pregnant or of childbearing age to especially understand the risk of contracting Zika virus disease.

“Across Tennessee, thousands of college students, members of faith organizations, healthcare professionals and others are now planning spring trips to warmer locations for either fun or mission work,” said TDH State Epidemiologist Tim Jones, MD. “The Tennessee Department of Health cautions travelers headed soon to warmer climates to have an increased awareness about diseases spread by mosquitoes and to make mosquito bite prevention an essential part of their trip planning.”

READ MORE | First case of Zika virus confirmed in Georgia

TDH recommends the following for travelers to protect themselves against mosquitoes:

Apply repellants to skin often; these can include lotions, liquids or sprays. TDH and CDC recommend the use of repellants which contain DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane 3,8-diol and IR3535. Duration of protection varies by repellant; read labels on products to determine when reapplications are necessary for optimal protection. To learn more about insect repellants, visit

Wear long, loose and light-colored shirts and pants and wear socks. Tucking shirts in pants and tucking pants into socks will help form a barrier. Wear closed shoes or boots instead of sandals. 

Treat clothing with permethrin or purchase clothing pretreated with permethrin.

In remote locations lacking window screens and/or air conditioning, the use of bed nets is advised. These should reach the floor or be tucked under the mattress.

Avoid perfumes, colognes and products with fragrances that might attract mosquitoes.

Certain products containing permethrin are recommended for use on clothing, shoes, bed nets and camping gear. Permethrin-treated clothing repels and kills mosquitoes and other pests and retains this effect after repeated washing. Some clothing products are available pretreated with permethrin. It should not be used directly on skin.

TDH urges people who suspect they are infected with a mosquito-borne illness to seek medical help.

“While public health and medical professionals have a good body of knowledge about many mosquito-borne diseases, there is still much to learn about Zika virus disease,” Dreyzehner said. “At present there are still questions about its transmission through sex and other avenues. Pregnant women or people who develop a fever within one week of returning from an affected country should contact their personal healthcare professional for advice.”

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. TDH has facilities in all 95 counties and provides direct services for more than one in five Tennesseans annually as well as indirect services for everyone in the state, including emergency response to health threats, licensure of health professionals, regulation of health care facilities and inspection of food service establishments. Learn more about TDH services and programs 

- See more here

This story originally appeared on Tennessee Department of Health's website

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