University of Alabama Student Tests Positive for Zika Virus

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

A spokesman for the University of Alabama recently announced that a student who had been studying abroad has now tested positive for the Zika virus.

While the school was unable to comment on the student’s condition due to federal privacy laws, spokesperson Chris Bryant said that patients typically recover within a week.  It has not been made public where the student was studying when the disease was contracted, reports Melynda Schauer for WSFA.

The student makes the sixth case of the Zika virus in the state.  All of the cases have been related to travel to affected areas.

Bryant went on to say that the school was notified of the students’ condition on Friday.  Since that time, students who had returned from or who are currently studying abroad in Central and South America, Mexico and the Caribbean have all been made aware of the situation.  It was recommended to these students that they go to the Student Health Center or visit their healthcare provider to be tested, especially if they are experiencing any symptoms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that no locally-transmitted cases of Zika have been reported within the United States to date.  Of the 691 cases present in the US, 11 were transmitted through sex with an infected individual.

While symptoms can include fever, joint pain, rash, and red eyes, most adults with the virus will show either mild symptoms or none at all.  The Alabama Department of Public Health is asking that anyone who experienced any of these symptoms and has recently traveled outside of the country to one of the affected areas be tested for the virus.

The virus has been connected to an increase in severe birth defects affecting the infant’s brain and skull, called microcephaly.  The defect causes an abnormal smallness of the head, in addition to other complications, including developmental delays, stunted growth, seizures, and mental retardation, writes Mitchell Kilpatrick for The Yellowhammer News.

It is advised that pregnant women, and those considering becoming pregnant, take precautions.  Officials with the Alabama Department of Public Health suggest that any travel to areas that have been affected by Zika, such as Central and South America, Mexico, and Puerto Rico, be postponed for pregnant women.  In addition, men who have traveled to those areas are advised to use condoms or avoid having sex with a partner who may be pregnant.

The school has directed students to view the public health website for additional information concerning disease symptoms and prevention methods.

Meanwhile, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh has contracted the disease after accidentally pricking herself with an infected needle.  The unidentified individual began to develop symptoms on June 1.  A blood test then came back positive for the Zika virus on June 8.  This is the fourth case of the virus in Pennsylvania.  The three other cases came as a result of traveling.

While the species of mosquito that carries the virus is not native to the state, the Allegheny County Health Department suggests that citizens take additional precautions, adding that repellants that contain DEET are more effective at keeping mosquitos away.