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First Zika virus case confirmed in Pierce County

July 18, 2016

Man exposed to virus while traveling outside the U.S.

TACOMA, Wash. – A Pierce County man in his 20s tested positive for the Zika virus. The man likely caught the virus recently while in Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory known to have mosquitoes infected with the Zika virus.

The man was not hospitalized and is recovering. Out of an abundance of caution, the Health Department is working with his health care provider to ensure the patient follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.

“The risk of Zika is extremely low in Pierce County. The mosquitoes that carry it are not found here and public health testing and reporting protocols control emerging diseases,” said Nigel Turner, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department Communicable Disease Division director. “Those considering travel to areas with Zika should take appropriate precautions against the virus,” Turner said.

Should You Worry About Zika?

About 80% of people infected with the Zika virus never show symptoms. People primarily get it from the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. According to the State Department of Health, this type of mosquito is not native to Washington. To date, the 12 cases confirmed in our state are associated with travel to a country or region with ongoing Zika virus transmission.

What Are the Symptoms?

Only one in five infected people will have any symptoms, which include fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. The illness is usually mild and can last a few days to a week. People usually do not get sick enough to go to the hospital.

How Does It Spread?

The virus spreads from:

  • Bite from an infected mosquito.
  • Mother to fetus.
  • Through sex.
  • Blood transfusions.

The virus does not spread through casual contact with an infected person or from mosquitoes and other insects found in Washington.

“We are a mobile society and people travel to areas where Zika may be prevalent, so we may see more cases in our community” Turner said. “Emerging health concerns like Zika underscore the importance of our public health work to identify and control disease outbreaks. It’s also a reminder that funding for this work helps to keep our communities safe.”

Learn more about Zika:

Edie Jeffers, Communications Manager
(253) 798-2853, (253) 405-6822 (cell/text),
Steve Metcalf, Communications Specialist
(253) 798-6540, (253) 345-8238, (cell/text),

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