Zika virus found in Niagara County

Posted at 8:05 AM, Apr 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-22 17:03:29-04

A North Tonawanda woman who traveled to the Caribbean this past winter has become the first person in Niagara County to be diagnosed with the Zika virus.

In an exclusive interview with 7 Eyewitness News, the woman - who does not want to be identified - said she spent time in Haiti in January as part of a mission trip. She was working at an orphanage.

The travel alert was issued after she returned.

"Before I went I didn't know anything about it. When I came back it was all over the news," she said. "I'm exhausted. I'm going to school and I go to school and come home and take naps. I'm just tired all the time."

Her other symptoms, including a rash and diarrhea have gone away.

Even before concern of Zika became widespread, the woman took precautions due to concerns of other diseases, such as malaria.

"I wore bug spray everyday, but I got about 30 mosquito bites anyway."

In a statement, the Niagara County Department of Health said it "received confirmation of a case of Zika through testing by the New York State Department of Health. This individual did not acquire the virus in the United States. The public is not at any risk. The patient's symptoms have resolved on their own."

The woman told 7 Eyewitness News that the confirmation just came back this week.

"I had three rounds of blood work," she explained. Doctors had to narrow down different viruses through the antibodies in her system.

This is the second confirmed case of Zika in Western New York. A person in Erie County was diagnosed with the virus in February.

The virus can only be contracted through mosquito bites or it can be sexually transmitted by someone with the virus.

Zika has not been acquired by a mosquito in the United States. The mosquito that carries the virus has never been found in western New York. Those at risk are only those who have traveled to the outbreak region or who have a partner who traveled to the region.

Health experts tell 7 Eyewitness News that researchers have confirmed the virus can be sexually transmitted from men to women. However, they do not know yet if women can transfer the virus to men.

Here is a look at cases of Zika virus that have been confirmed in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control:

Travel-associated Zika virus disease cases reported: 358
Locally acquired vector-borne cases reported: 0
Pregnant: 31
Sexually transmitted: 7
Guillain-Barré syndrome: 1

Confirmed cases of Zika virus in U.S. Territories:

Travel-associated cases reported: 4
Locally acquired cases reported: 471
Total cases: 475
Pregnant: 58
Guillain-Barré syndrome: 1

Since last year, doctors in Brazil have been linking Zika infections in pregnant women to a rise in newborns with microcephaly, or an unusually small skull. Most experts were cautious about drawing a firm connection. But now the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says enough evidence is in. Zika has also been associated with a rare neurological disorder known as Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can cause paralysis.

The CDC has issued travel alerts for the following areas:
The Caribbean -- Aruba; Barbados; Bonaire; Cuba; Curaçao; Dominica; Dominican Republic; Guadeloupe; Haiti; Jamaica; Martinique; the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, a US territory; Saint Lucia; Saint Martin; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Saint Maarten; Trinidad and Tobago; US Virgin Islands
Central America -- Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama
The Pacific Islands -- American Samoa, Fiji, Kosrae (Federated States of Micronesia), Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, Samoa, Tonga
South America -- Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela