GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - State health officials confirm a second South Mississippi resident has contracted Zika. Officials say the Harrison County resident was traveling in Puerto Rico where the virus was contracted. Now experts are urging everyone, especially pregnant women, to be cautious.
As Zika infection numbers rise, health care workers like the staff at Garden Park Medical Center are preparing with infectious disease drills, even though the hospital hasn't seen any patients with Zika yet.
"We follow the processes and protocols. We educate the nurses, educate the staff. You don't want to wait until the last second and then you have
just a chaotic environment," said physician's assistant Lee Stork.
According to the state health department, one in five people infected don't show symptoms. That's why officials urge travelers returning from areas
where Zika transmission is prevalent to avoid exposure to mosquitoes here for at least three weeks, and avoid sexual intercourse for at least eight weeks.
Symptoms of Zika are similar to the flu. But if a pregnant women were to become exposed to the virus, it could take a devastating toll on an unborn baby.
"The risk with pregnancy is the baby, especially within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. Brain defects, microcephaly, which is a small head
and a defect in the head and defect on the brain," said Stork.
According to the State Deputy Epidemiologist Paul Byers, work is underway to find any potential mosquito that could carry the virus, like the
aedes albopictus, also known as the tiger mosquito. It hasn't been seen in our state since the 1990s. The species is known to fly and feed during the day. Byers said if that mosquito were to bite someone with the virus, it could begin to spread the virus.
"You should take it very seriously, especially if you are going to be traveling or know someone who has traveled to those areas," said Stork.
The State Department of Health confirmed a majority of Mississippians infected contracted the virus during mission work in the Caribbean and Central America.