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February 29, 2016

Philadelphia woman contracts Zika after traveling to Caribbean

A Philadelphia woman who traveled to the Caribbean has contracted the Zika virus, the Philadelphia Department of Health announced Monday.

The woman, who is over 60 years old, recently returned to Philadelphia from her travels. She was not hospitalized and is recovering without complications, according to city health officials.

This is the city's first Zika case.

Zika outbreaks have been reported across much of Central America, South America and the Caribbean. Its possible connection to microcephaly, a serious birth defect, has prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue a travel advisory urging pregnant women to avoid any unnecessary travel to infected areas.  

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas A. Farley reiterated that advice.

"Because of the potential for congenital Zika infection, pregnant women should strongly consider canceling or postponing travel to areas with ongoing outbreaks of infection," Farley said. 

Zika itself is a relatively benign illness that primarily spreads through a specific type of mosquito, Aedes aegypti, which Philadelphia health officials say is not found in the city. It also can be transmitted through sexual intercourse and from a mother to a fetus. 

Symptoms of the virus include fever, rash, conjunctivitis and joint aches that usually cease within a week. Many infected individuals may not develop symptoms. 

Farley advised anyone traveling to Zika-infected areas to take measures to avoid mosquito bites by wearing long sleeves and pants, using insect repellent and, if sleeping outside, utilizing a mosquito bed net. 

Pennsylvania has had four Zika cases, according to the state Department of Health

U.S. Bob Casey, D-Pa., urged Congress to approve "the emergency preparedness and response funding necessary" to combat Zika in the United States. 

"This supplemental funding would support readiness, response capacity in state, prevention and education," Casey said in a statement. "We can't wait for more confirmed cases and victims, the time is now."

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