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First case of the Zika virus confirmed in Washington state

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes float in a mosquito cage at a laboratory in Cucuta, Colombia. The Aedes aegypti mosquito is the vector that transmits the Zika virus, and also dengue and chikunguna. (AP)

The first documented case of the Zika virus has been confirmed in Washington state.

Officials with the Washington State Department of Health announced Monday that a Mason County man tested positive for the virus at a Thurston County hospital.

The virus is initially spread through mosquitos. So far, the majority of Zika cases the continental United States have been among people who have traveled to areas elsewhere in the world and have returned to the states infected with it, according to the Center for Disease Control. There have been some cases, however, where the virus was spread through sexual contact. The virus has most often been found in Africa and South Pacific countries, but recently is was discovered in South America as well.

The Mason County man, in his 20s, recently visited the South Pacific where he caught the virus.

“Because many people travel to and from places where Zika is spreading, we’ve been expecting to have imported cases of Zika virus disease,” said Dr. Scott Lindquist, State Epidemiologist for Communicable Diseases for the Department of Health. “While the Zika virus is of greatest risk to pregnant women, it is understandably concerning to many of us. The good news is this virus spreads through the bite of a type of mosquito we don’t have in Washington state, so it is very unlikely that this virus would spread widely here.”

The Zika virus is more often a mild sickness for those infected. The greatest concern is for pregnant women as the virus can cause severe birth defects.

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