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April 15, 2016

Camden County woman tests positive for Zika

The woman had traveled to a country where the virus is prevalent, officials said

A Camden County woman has tested positive for the Zika virus, the county health department announced Friday.

The woman, who was not identified, recently returned from traveling to an unidentified country where the virus is prevalent. She is not pregnant and is not currently hospitalized.

The case marks Camden County's first positive Zika test.

The woman visited her health care provider on April 2 after experiencing symptoms of fever, rash, fatigue and joint pain. Specimens were submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which notified the New Jersey Department of Health and Human Services that the woman had tested positive for Zika.

Freeholder Carmen Rodriguez said Camden County health officials are following CDC guidelines, encouraging anyone who travels to infected areas to notify their primary care physicians if they experience Zika-related symptoms.

"We are monitoring constantly," Rodriguez said. "The potential for spreading in the community is pretty close to zero because we don't have the vector at this time."

Zika symptoms are relatively benign, but the CDC now says that birth defects related to Zika are indeed caused by the virus. Those birth defects include microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with an unusually small skull. 

Doctors in Brazil had linked Zika infections in pregnant women to a rise in microcephaly cases, but many outside experts were cautious to say Zika caused the defect. But the CDC said Wednesday that it no longer doubts Zika as the cause. Signs of the virus were found in brain tissue, spinal fluid and amniotic fluid of babies born with microcephaly.

The White House plans to combat the Zika virus with $589 million of leftover funding from the fight against Ebola. Meanwhile, the CDC has urged women to avoid any unnecessary travel to areas where the Zika virus is prevalent. 

The virus is primarily transmitted through mosquitoes, but also can be spread via sexual intercourse. The type of mosquito known to carry Zika – Aedes aegypti – has a range that encompasses Southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, according to the CDC.

However, Rodriguez said that the mosquito is not native to New Jersey and cannot lay eggs that will survive the winter. Therefore, the mosquitos are not currently present in New Jersey and essentially would need a ride to arrive here.

"It's a warmer climate mosquito," Rodriguez said. "In the winter months, it would die off. ... It cannot lay eggs and come out in the spring. It can't survive the cold." 

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