Learn more about the Zika virus in Pennsylvania

This article was last updated August 2, 2016

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Even as the number of Zika cases grows internationally, the risk of contracting the virus Pennsylvania is “highly unlikely,” according to officials at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC.

More than a dozen Pennsylvania women have been diagnosed with the Zika virus — a mosquito-borne illness linked to a variety of birth defects. But none of these women have contracted the virus locally via a mosquito, said Richard Beigi, MD, vice president for medical affairs and chief medical officer at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC.

Dr. Beigi said a locally contracted case of Zika would almost certainly garner national attention.

“It would not be kept a secret,” Dr. Beigi said. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state health department would certainly be involved. And we would start by summarizing our information on the virus and sending it out to our [UPMC] hospitals and providers.”

Testing for the Zika Virus

Symptoms of Zika are similar to Dengue and Chikungunya — and often do not appear at all. In fact, only one in four people with Zika will develop symptoms.

Several tests are commonly used to detect Zika:

  • A real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction or rRT-PCR, to be conducted within a week of contraction
  • A simple blood test for antibodies made after infection
  • In some areas, urine testing may be available

For pregnant women, an ultrasound would be performed during the second trimester to determine if the unborn baby has developed any birth defects that may be associated with Zika.

Zika has no cure or vaccine. People diagnosed with the condition must work alongside a health care provider to find the best course of treatment.

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Protecting Yourself from Zika

The best way for pregnant or soon-to-be pregnant women to prevent Zika contraction is to avoid travel to affected areas and follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

As of August 2016, the CDC has issued one travel warning within the United States. Pregnant women are advised to avoid travel to the Miami-area community of Wynwood, where the virus may be circulating.

“The basic guideline is don’t travel to an area with Zika unless you have to,” Dr. Beigi said. “If you have to travel, do everything possible to avoid mosquito bites.”

  • Wear bug repellent and stay indoors to the extent possible
  • Eliminate standing water around your home
  • Wear long-sleeve clothing if you do go outside
  • Consult a doctor if you develop symptoms, particularly after traveling to a Zika-affected area

Read our guide on preventing mosquito bites for more details.