Oklahoma missionary diagnosed with Zika virus on trip to Haiti

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OKLAHOMA CITY - An Oklahoman has been infected with the Zika virus.

She’s a missionary who got the virus while working in Haiti.

Lauren Steverson, 23, had only been in Haiti for about two weeks before she contracted the Zika virus.

Her case is pretty typical: the virus stayed in her body for several days, and she recovered.

But doctors tell us the virus could last a lot longer in men.

We spoke with Steverson at OU Medical Center Monday by phone.

“For us as missionaries, we have bug spray, I brought a lot with me,” Steverson said.

Despite taking extra precautions, she still contracted the Zika virus.

“It started out as a fever, and that happened during the night. I got some Tylenol, went back to bed, and then when I woke up the next morning, I had kind of a bad headache, on a scale of 1-10, it was a 6,” Steverson said.

She had a lot of back pain and got a rash all over her body.

“My rash didn't itch. I've known several people that have had Zika, and their rash itched pretty bad,” Steverson said.

The good news is Lauren is okay now.

Doctors say pregnant women need to be most cautious because the Zika virus can spread to a woman’s fetus, causing the baby to suffer brain damage.

“The head doesn't grow, and when the child's born, they have a condition called microcephaly, meaning small brain, small head,” OU Medical Center infectious disease doctor Robert Welliver said.

Medical experts are also concerned about men who have traveled to areas where the disease is wide-spread.

We’re told a man in Dallas who traveled to Venezuela months ago just infected a woman through sexual contact.

“The virus is in semen for several months after you develop the infection, and you can see why this is a problem, because you can go to another country and either become ill and recover or not even know that you were infected there,” Dr. Welliver said.

There have been no confirmed cases of people here in Oklahoma with the Zika virus, but we do know the kinds of mosquitos that carry the virus are here.

The same mosquitos carry West Nile.

As for Lauren, doctors say since she’s already had the virus, she’s now immune to it.

She returns to Oklahoma next month.


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