The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has confirmed the first case of the Zika virus in New Hampshire.
The woman contracted the virus through sexual contact with a man who was symptomatic and had traveled to a country with active Zika transmission. She has fully recovered and is not pregnant, according to the DHHS.
“Identifying cases in New Hampshire is not unexpected, although the most common means of transmission of the virus is through the bite of infected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Sexual transmission is less common,” DHHS Acting Director of Public Health Marcella Bobinsky said in a press release. “Our greatest concern is for pregnant women who may be exposed to the virus through travel, or the travel of their partners because Zika has been associated with severe birth defects, including microcephaly.”
Richard Canuel, who serves as Londonderry’s public health officer, said the State is still discussing whether or not mosquitoes collected through their mosquito program will be tested for Zika because the mosquitoes that carry the virus are not indigenous to New Hampshire.
Londonderry will begin the Town’s mosquito control program in April, conducting surveillance, sampling mosquitoes and applying larvicide, which Canuel said is more effective than spraying large areas of town.
“We will be sending samples to the State Lab and my understanding is they will have some testing for Zika, and if they do discover the virus they would have a full testing program,” he said, noting the type of mosquitoes in New Hampshire that carry West Nile Virus are similar to those that are carrying Zika.
Robert Mackey, who serves as Derry’s Public Health Officer, said the Town will similarly begin its mosquito control program with contractor Dragon Mosquito and will continue to follow recommendations of the State as it works to address Zika.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued travel warnings for pregnant women; and the DHHS is encouraging college students and others who may be traveling to Zika-affected regions this spring, including South America, Central America, the Caribbean, Pacific Islands and U.S. territories, to take strict precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes.
Symptoms of the Zika infection include fever, rash, conjunctivitis and joint pain, but most people infected with the virus do not develop symptoms.
Because there aren’t any treatments or vaccines for Zika, prevention efforts are focused on preventing mosquito bites – avoiding travel to affected areas, using repellents containing DEET and wearing long sleeves and pants, according to the DHHS.
The State is working with the CDC to enhance its Public Health Laboratory testing capabilities, protocols and certifications for Zika.
Additionally, the DHHS has been working to inform healthcare providers and the public about Zika; issuing two Health Alerts, holding a webinar to educate health care providers on treatment and prevention of Zika, and launching a website with resources and information about the virus.
For more information , visit www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/cdcs/zika/index.htm.