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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Woman diagnosed with Zika virus in Spokane gave birth to healthy baby

A pregnant woman in her 20s was diagnosed with the Zika virus in Spokane County but has since given birth to a healthy child, health officials said Monday.

The woman was infected while she was traveling out of the country, according to the Spokane Regional Health District. She is a U.S. citizen, and though she was diagnosed here, she is not a local resident. Her child tested negative for the Zika virus, and both mother and baby have returned to their home.

Health officials declined to disclose more for privacy reasons, but said the case underscores the rare but real risks the Zika virus poses for pregnant women.

“Although we can be thankful that mom is symptom-free at this point, and that her baby appears unaffected at this time, this serves as a timely reminder for anyone considering traveling to countries where the virus is circulating,” Dr. Joel McCullough, the health district’s interim health officer, said in a news release.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that pregnant women postpone trips to infected areas, which include tropical parts of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Zika virus is primarily spread to people through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. However, a woman can spread the disease to her fetus, and men can also spread the disease to their partners during sex.

Most people infected with the virus don’t have symptoms, but the virus can cause birth defects, including microcephaly, a condition in which babies have abnormally small heads, and miscarriage.

The CDC recently released a study of nine U.S. women who contracted travel-related Zika virus while pregnant. One woman gave birth to a child with microcephaly. Two others miscarried; two had abortions; two had healthy births; and two pregnancies were continuing without apparent problems. The woman diagnosed in Spokane was not part of the study.

This is the second confirmed case of Zika virus infection in a returning traveler to Washington state. The earlier case was a man from Mason County.

The Spokane Regional Health District received the test results from the woman on Friday, said Mark Springer, a district epidemiologist. She was tested after displaying symptoms during her pregnancy, which can include fever, sore joints, rash and red eyes. The lab work was sent to the CDC for analysis about a month ago.

Since Latin America and the Caribbean are popular winter and spring break destinations for local residents, women of childbearing age should be aware of the risks, Springer said.

“The real risk is to pregnant women and their unborn children,” he said.

The Zika virus lasts in the blood for up to two weeks, so women should delay trying to conceive for a month after they return from an infected area. The virus appears to last longer in semen, so men who return from infected areas should use a condom if their partner is pregnant or could get pregnant.

“With a man, we don’t really know that time frame,” Springer said. “We’re hoping to get a more definite idea of the risk over the next couple of months.”

Zika virus has spread throughout tropical areas of Central and South America and parts of the Caribbean after migrating to the Western Hemisphere in May 2015. There are no vaccines for the virus, which has been found in Asia and Africa for years.

The mosquito species that spreads the virus is not found in northern states, and there have been no Zika cases in the U.S. that weren’t travel-related.