The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) today announced the first confirmed
case of Zika virus in the state. The individual who tested positive, a male in his
60s, had recently traveled to Haiti, where there is active mosquito-borne
transmission of Zika.
“We have been closely monitoring the Zika situation internationally and have been
coordinating with Rhode Island healthcare providers for months. We were fully
prepared for this first case,” said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD,
MPH. “While the risk to the public is very low, we are coordinating with doctors,
especially those who work with pregnant women, on how best to identify symptoms and
educate patients about prevention.”
Measures that RIDOH has taken to prepare include:
* Established a Zika Task Force that includes fetal medicine specialists from Women
& Infants Hospital in February;
* Issuing regular briefs to Rhode Island healthcare providers with updated guidance
and information on symptoms and specimen collection;
* Coordinating patient specimen collection and shipment to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC); and
* Coordinating with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management for
increased mosquito surveillance and larvaciding.
Zika is spread primarily through bites from infected mosquitoes. It can also be
“We don’t expect locally-acquired cases here because the species of mosquitos that
are currently known to transmit Zika are not found in Rhode Island,” said Dr.
Alexander-Scott. “However, Rhode Islanders who are pregnant or are considering
becoming pregnant should avoid travel to countries where there is active
transmission of the virus.”
The virus causes symptoms including fever, rash, joint pain, headache, muscle pain,
and conjunctivitis (pink eye). Approximately 80% of those who have the virus do not
have any symptoms. Symptoms typically appear within three to 14 days of infection.
Zika is also associated with pregnant women giving birth to babies with microcephaly
and other birth defects. Microcephaly is condition when a baby’s head is smaller
than expected. Babies with microcephaly often have smaller brains that have not
Pregnant women or women who are considering pregnancy and have potential for
exposure to Zika (from either a mosquito or a sexual partner) should seek counseling
from their healthcare providers.
In January, RIDOH first alerted healthcare providers to consider Zika virus in
symptomatic patients who had recently traveled to areas with active mosquito-borne
Zika virus transmission. Since February 1, 2016, RIDOH has been submitting specimens
to CDC for testing. The Rhode Island State Health Laboratories are currently
developing the capacity to test for Zika virus in accordance with CDC protocols.
To prevent exposure to Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases, especially while
traveling to areas with active mosquito-borne Zika transmission, people should:
* Use and reapply Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved
bug spray containing at least 20% DEET.
* Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
* Use permethrin
-treated clothing and gear.
* Stay in buildings that use air conditioning, or have window and door screens.
* Sleep under a mosquito net.
According to the CDC, Massachusetts has had 7 similar travel-associated cases, and
Connecticut has had 1. More information about Zika virus disease is available at the
Department of Health’s website
. A list of countries with active-transmission is available on the RIDOH’s website.
They are primarily in Latin America and the Caribbean.