A man who contracted the Zika Virus in Central America was treated at Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital on July 18. Photo/SEARHC

The state department of Health and Social Services announced the first known case of the Zika Virus in the state today belonging to a patient treated at SEARHC’s Mt. Edgcumbe Hospital in Sitka. The patient, a male from the Midwest, was traveling in Central America. He then came to Alaska, where he began to experience unusual symptoms.

“He came to our emergency room here at Mount Edgecumbe hospital for evaluation. He had a rash, a fever, and conjunctivitis – his eyes were red, irritated and red,” says Katy Pugh, a registered nurse and an infection prevention specialist at the hospital

The patient was evaluated and the Zika diagnosis was confirmed by a lab test. The man did not require hospitalization.

“He was given educational information about the Zika Virus, and then he was released from our care,” says Pugh. 

The patient has returned home to the Midwest, and SEARHC officials say there is no risk the virus will spread to the public. The patient was exposed to a very limited portion of the hospital, which has been thoroughly disinfected. Pugh says the hospital is prepared, though, if this were to happen again.

“If we had another patient with Zika who came to the hospital, we would follow the same procedures,” says Pugh. The community is safe, the appropriate procedures were followed, and there should be no cause for alarm in the area.”

Zika can only be spread through intravenous drug use or sexual activity, and though the virus is also spread by mosquitoes, Alaskan mosquitoes cannot transmit the virus. Zika is linked to birth defects and brain damage in newborns, as well as temporary paralysis –Guillain-Barré syndrome – in adults. There is no CDC recommended treatment for the Zika Virus, just rest, water, and nourishment. symptoms can be mild and usually only require rest and care.