First Zika case reported in S.C.; DHEC says resident contracted virus overseas

A female Aedes aegypti mosquito in the process of acquiring a meal from a human host. South Carolina confirmed its first case of Zika virus Friday, though it’s been confirmed the person contracted it oversees.

State regulators confirmed Friday that a South Carolina resident has been diagnosed with the Zika virus, but that the resident contracted it overseas.

“The individual did not have symptoms and was not contagious by the time they returned to the United States,” the state Department of Health and Environmental Control wrote in a press release Friday. “Therefore, there is no risk to public health and no risk of transmission to people or mosquitoes in South Carolina at this time.”

No further details on the patient’s gender, residence or physical condition will be released.

South Carolina has tested 105 patients for Zika. One test came back positive, 99 tests were negative and five tests are pending.

There are still no locally-acquired cases, meaning all of the cases are travel-associated.

The Zika virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes — both of which reside in South Carolina. However, the CDC said none of the mosquitoes in the state are currently carrying the virus.

Symptoms of the virus include fever, rash and joint pain, though many patients never experience them. The illness is usually mild and only one of every five people who contract Zika actually get sick, according to the CDC.

Experts also confirmed this month that Zika is linked to babies being born with smaller heads, or microcephaly. In those cases, the mothers are infected during pregnancy, which is why the CDC is suggesting that pregnant women not travel to countries where Zika is prominent.

Friday’s announcement removes the Palmetto State from a shrinking list of states that have yet to confirm a case.

According to DHEC and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 43 states and Washington have confirmed 427 cases of Zika, leaving just seven states that have yet to confirm a Zika patient.

Dr. Robert Ball, a health professor at the College of Charleston and at the Medical University of South Carolina, said this state and the rest of the Southeast should expect to see sporadic, local transmission but should not worry about a widespread epidemic.

“It’s no surprise that South Carolina has a confirmed case,” he said. “We will have more travel-related cases after this summer from when people travel to Central and South America.”

Top officials with the CDC and the National Institutes of Health warned earlier this month that the start of mosquito season will likely lead to local transmission in the United States.

Those same officials have called for Congress to approve a $1.89 billion measure to combat Zika. President Barack Obama asked for the funding in February but has yet to receive it. Instead, the Republican-led Congress passed a bill that speeds up the approval process for Zika virus treatments, without directing any new federal money to address the issue.

In addition, Congress applauded a separate move that redirected nearly $600 million from the Ebola-prevention fund toward efforts to fight Zika.

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C. applauded both measures in a statement sent via email on Friday.

“The serious health risks of the Zika virus are alarming to American families,” Wilson said. “Congress has taken this public health concern seriously.”

Still, Ball thinks Congress should adhere to the experts and approve the additional funding.

“It’s a hope and dream. But knowing Congress, all bets are off,” he said.

Reach Derrek Asberry at 843-937-5517. Follow him on Twitter @DerrekAsberry.