JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - Two people in Warren County contracted the Zika virus while traveling near Venezuela, the Mississippi State Department of Health said Monday. These are the first reported cases of the virus in Mississippi this year.
Nearly two dozen Mississippians were diagnosed with travel-related cases of Zika in 2016.
An outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus has affected around 50 countries in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.
MSDH said the breed of mosquito that carries the disease has not been seen in Mississippi since the early 1990s, but Zika can be transmitted sexually. There are currently no treatments or vaccines for the virus.
"It is important to remember that there are several types of mosquito-borne diseases, so it's essential to always take precautions, protect yourself, and avoid mosquito exposure whenever possible at home or when traveling," said State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers.
While symptoms of the virus are fairly mild and about 80 percent of those infected show no symptoms at all, it can cause devastating birth defects if contracted during pregnancy.
MSDH recommends women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should avoid traveling to affected countries. Pregnant women should also avoid sexual contact with anyone who has recently traveled to a country with Zika.
"With spring and summer approaching, mission trips and vacations to these areas will be popular. Please be especially mindful of protecting yourself from mosquitoes while you're abroad. Simple steps can make a big difference," Byers said.
MSDH said it is closely monitoring mosquito populations in Mississippi for signs of Zika virus.