April 7, 2016 9:45:28 AM
An Oktibbeha County resident who recently traveled to Haiti was diagnosed with Mississippi's third case of Zika virus, the Mississippi State Department of Health announced Wednesday.
Previous cases were reported in residents of Madison and Noxubee counties who also traveled to Haiti.
Zika, a mosquito-borne virus, can cause serious birth defects if contracted by pregnant women and mild illness featuring fever, joint pain, conjunctivitis or rashes, lasting for several days.
Most affected by the virus have mild or no symptoms and are unlikely to die from the illness. The breed of mosquito spreading Zika has not been detected in Mississippi since the mid-1980s, MSDH said in a release, and officials are monitoring the mosquito population. Reports of Zika cases in the Caribbean, Central and South America have rapidly increased in the last year.
"Pregnant women should not be traveling to these countries," State Epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Dobbs said in the release. "All cases reported in the United States so far are related to international travel.
"With late spring and summer approaching, we know it is a popular time for mission trips and vacations to these areas. Please be especially mindful of protecting yourself from mosquitoes while you're abroad."
Pregnant women or women who may get pregnant in the near future should not travel to countries with reported Zika transmissions, the release states. They should also avoid sexual contact - or only have protected sex using a condom - with any male who has recently returned from a country with Zika virus.There are no available treatments or vaccines for Zika.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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