Zika virus in Georgia: What you need to know

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The Georgia Department of Public Health confirms the first travel-related case of Zika virus in Georgia.

The woman traveled to Colombia between December and the first of January, according to officials. She was not pregnant and has made a full recovery. Tests are being run on specimens from other people living in Georgia who have traveled to places where there are outbreaks of Zika virus.

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Florida Governor Rick Scott has declared a health emergency in four counties due to Zika virus. This covers Miami-Dade, Lee, Hillsborough, and Santa Rosa counties.

Zika virus is primarily spread to people via mosquito bites. However, reports have been confirmed of Zika being sexually transmitted in Texas.

There is currently no vaccine or medicine that will prevent or treat Zika.  Dr. Gene Stringer is the Infectious Disease Section Chief for Morehouse School of Medicine and said about one and five people experience serious symptoms of Zika virus.

"The four major symptoms are an abrupt on set of fever," said Dr. Stringer.  "A spotted rash which is raised up from the skin, also joint pain and red eyes."

Typically, hospitalization is uncommon and most people infected with Zika never realize they are sick.

One concern Dr. Stringer shared is that a mosquito can pick up the virus by biting an infected person.

Travelers should check CDC travel advisories for their destinations and take precautions to protect themselves from mosquitos:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants
  • Use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), or IR3535 (use as directed)
  • Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents)
  • Stay and sleep in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms

The U.N. health agency convened an emergency meeting of independent experts in Geneva to assess the outbreak after noting a suspicious link between Zika's arrival in Brazil last year and a surge in the number of babies born with abnormally small heads.

"After a review of the evidence, the committee advised that the clusters of microcephaly and other neurological complications constitute an extraordinary event and public health threat to other parts of the world," WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said.

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WHO estimates there could be up to 4 million cases of Zika in the Americas in the next year, but no recommendations were made to restrict travel or trade.

"It is important to understand, there are several measures pregnant women can take," Chan said. "If you can delay travel and it does not affect your other family commitments, it is something they can consider.