Five Zika Cases Being Treated at Fort Bragg

In this May 17, 2016, photo, Matthew Aliota, assistant scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, works with a strain of Aedes aegypti mosquito in a research lab. (Jeff Miller/UW-Madison via AP)
In this May 17, 2016, photo, Matthew Aliota, assistant scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, works with a strain of Aedes aegypti mosquito in a research lab. (Jeff Miller/UW-Madison via AP)

Five service members and retirees from Fort Bragg are being treated for Zika after contracting the virus while traveling abroad.

The cases are the first to be reported at Fort Bragg, which is home to more than 54,000 troops.

The earliest of the cases was confirmed in June.

Zika is still a relatively new disease in the United States and has sparked concern from medical officials across the country, particularly in the Southeast.

A spokeswoman at Fort Bragg said there is no need for the surrounding community to be concerned.

"This does not pose a threat to the local community," said Elizabeth Gerhart, a public affairs specialist with Fort Bragg's garrison.

Gerhart said all of the infected have been treated at Womack Army Medical Center. None of the infected personnel have reported Zika-related complications.

The Fort Bragg cases are among 50 confirmed and 10 probable cases of Zika reported in soldiers, Army civilians or their families as of Aug. 30, according to the Army Public Health Center.

At Fort Bragg, all of the people are believed to have been infected during deployments or other travel.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Zika is spread mostly through the bite of an infected mosquito, specifically those of the species Aedes.

The virus also can be passed from a woman to her child during pregnancy, through sex, via blood transfusion and through laboratory exposure.

According to the CDC, many people infected by Zika will never have symptoms or will only exhibit mild symptoms, including fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis, muscle pain and headaches.

Those symptoms can last for several days to a week, and victims typically do not get sick enough to go to the hospital and rarely die.

The biggest risk is in infants. The disease has been linked to thousands of cases of birth defects in tropical countries.

None of the Fort Bragg cases involve pregnant women, officials said.

Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a birth defect of the brain called microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects, according to the CDC

Other problems have been detected among fetuses and infants infected with the Zika virus before birth, such as defects of the eye, hearing deficits and impaired growth, according to the CDC's website. There also have been increased reports of Guillain-Barre syndrome, an uncommon sickness of the nervous system, in areas affected by Zika.

The Zika virus was discovered in 1947 and is named after the Zika Forest in Uganda.

The first human cases were detected in 1952. Since then, outbreaks have been reported in tropical Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.

The virus arrived in the United States earlier this year, and cases have since been confirmed in every state east of the Mississippi River.

According to the CDC, there are 48 known cases in North Carolina. None are believed to have been contracted locally.

The emerging outbreak has led officials to warn travelers, especially pregnant women or families with plans to have children, about visiting areas with active Zika virus transmission.

Organizations also are monitoring local mosquito populations in an attempt to track transmission of the disease.

At Fort Bragg, officials from Womack Army Medical Center have been monitoring mosquito populations and have begun screening for Zika in all blood donations. The mosquito surveillance is part of an Army-wide program.

According to the Army Public Health Center, more than 3,600 mosquitos have been tested on military installations, mostly on the East Coast. In those tests, no mosquitos have been found to carry the virus as of Aug.30.

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