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Pennsylvania awaits test results for Zika virus

| Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, 3:24 p.m.
REUTERS
A doctor checks a test tube with a blood sample for Zika virus testing from a pregnant woman, at the maternity ward of a hospital in Guatemala on Jan. 28, 2016.

Pennsylvania health officials are awaiting test results for seven state residents who may have contracted the mosquito-borne Zika virus while recently traveling out of the country.

Test results came back for one other Pennsylvania resident who tested negative, state officials said Monday.

So far, no locally transmitted Zika cases have been reported in the United States. The illness has been reported in travelers returning from affected countries, although it cannot be transmitted from person to person.

It could take the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention up to two weeks to complete the remaining tests at its laboratories in Atlanta.

The state health department plans to release local updates on a weekly basis.

The primary mosquito that carries Zika is not found in Pennsylvania, experts said. However, the Asian tiger mosquito, a secondary type of mosquito that can carry the disease, has been found in the state.

There is no cure for the Zika virus, and there is no vaccine to prevent it. In many cases, symptoms are mild or go unnoticed, experts said. Zika spreads through mosquito bites, and symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes.

However, Zika has been linked to an increase in the births of babies with abnormally small heads in Brazil, a condition known as microcephaly.

The World Health Organization said the virus could affect as many as 4 million people in the Americas.

The virus has been confirmed in more than 20 countries, mostly in Central and South America, according to the CDC. It is spread by the same mosquito that spreads dengue and yellow fever.

Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991 or bschmitt@tribweb.com.

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