First Zika case found in N.H. woman, transmitted sexually from man who had traveled overseas

  • In this Feb. 24, 2016 photo, Aedes aegypti mosquitos are bred for Zika related testing at the dengue lab run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in San Juan, Puerto Rico. At a different lab on the island, CDC officials are breeding mosquitoes to determine if they are resistant to insecticides that Puerto Rico is using. (AP Photo/Danica Coto)

Monitor staff
Wednesday, March 02, 2016
A New Hampshire woman recently became infected with the Zika virus through sexual contact with a male partner who had returned from an infected area, the first case of the emerging health problem to have been found in the state.

The woman is not pregnant and has recovered from the illness, said Dr. Benjamin Chan, the state epidemiologist, during a conference call Tuesday afternoon. Her partner has also recovered from his illness.

“She has fully recovered, and there is not any concern for public health. It is not transmitted through casual or close contact,” Chan said.

The two mosquito species known to transmit Zika are tropical and do not live in New England.

Officials did not release any details about the two people or where they live, other than to say that they are adults.

The Zika virus has raised alarm because it has been linked to serious birth defects throughout South America, Central America and the Caribbean.

Chan said the woman’s infection was discovered because she is one of 55 state residents whose blood samples are being tested after health care providers raised concern because of their symptoms and recent history.

At this point, hers is the only positive finding, with four negative findings. The other 50 samples are still being tested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services is seeking federal help so that it can perform Zika tests in Concord, Chan said.

According to Chan, the male partner had traveled to an area of Latin America where Zika was known to be circulating. When he returned to New Hampshire, he had some symptoms of the disease, which can be as vague as a fever, rash, joint pain and “red eye.”

The man’s symptoms went away but then the woman became sick, leading her health care provider to alert the state for testing.

“There have been reports of sexual transmission from symptomatic males to female partners but it is not yet known how common that is, or if asymptomatic male travelers can transmit the virus,” Chan said.

The Zika virus has been known to the medical community for decades – it is named after a forest in Uganda where it was first isolated – but only in the past year or so has it been found in the Americas and been linked to serious birth defects. Doctors are unsure whether the virus has mutated to become more dangerous, or if there is some other reason for the birth defects.

Most individuals infected with Zika virus have few if any problems. Chan said 4 out of 5 healthy adults with the disease “will not develop symptoms” of any kind.

But he noted that the medical community is still learning about the Zika virus, what it does and how it is transmitted, so extra caution is urged.

“Anybody who is traveling in areas where the virus is circulating – male or female, adult or children – should take strict precaution against mosquito bites,” he said.

He also urged people who have traveled to areas where Zika is circulating to use condoms during sexual activity even after they return.

“Using condoms for contraception not only helps to prevent unintended pregnancy, it can help prevent sexually transmitted infections, including the Zika virus,” he said.

The state has issued two health alerts and held a webinar to help educate health care providers on treatment and prevention of Zika.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313,, or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)

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