Arkansas resident diagnosed with Zika virus

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Just a couple of years ago, health experts in the United States didn’t know its name but now officials are warning residents across the globe about it.

In 2015, the Pan American Health Organization issued an alert about the Zika virus, saying it may be connected to a deadly birth defect.

“As of 30 November 2015, 1,248 cases of microcephaly, including seven deaths, have been reported in 14 states of Brazil, which are under investigation,” the organization said.

The virus is spread through the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also is responsible for spreading chikungunya and dengue. The pests usually live in central and south America, but have occasionally been found in south Florida, south Texas and Hawaii.

Now, a handful of Americans have been diagnosed with the Zika virus.

On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that an Arkansas resident tested positive for the virus. The patient recently traveled out of the country and had a mild case of the virus.

The CDC says the most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain and red, itchy eyes. However, many people can have the virus and not know it.

Pregnant women are most at risk for complications because of the virus’ link to serious birth defects.

In fact, American physicians are warning pregnant women to postpone their trips to Central or South America or the Caribbean. Recently, women in those are also being told to take extreme precautions.

In El Salvador, health officials have advised that all women of reproductive age need to delay getting pregnant until 2018. This month, officials in that country said they had 492 Zika cases.

Even if you are not pregnant, health experts are still warning about the consequences your diagnosis could have on others.

“Arkansas has the kind of mosquitoes that carry Zika virus, so mosquitoes here in Arkansas can become infected with the virus if they bite someone who has Zika. For this reason, people traveling to countries with Zika should avoid mosquito bites for 10 days after they return,” Dr. Nate Smith, the Arkansas Department of Health Director and State Health Officer, said.