Jan 28, 2016 5:08 PM

New England's first case of Zika virus confirmed by health officials


Health officials have confirmed New England has has its first case of Zika virus.

The case was reported in Massachusetts.

"We are aware of one case in Massachusetts, a person who had traveled to an area where we already know Zika is being transmitted," Dr. Larry Madoff, director of the Division of Epidemiology and Immunization at the Department of Public Health told the State House News Service.

Officials also said additional cases will not come as a surprise.

In New Hampshire, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen has written to key federal agencies calling for an aggressive and coordinated response to protect Americans from the Zika virus, which has been linked to birth defects and neurological problems in South America.

The letter was sent Wednesday to the secretaries of State, Health and Human Services and Homeland Security, urging them to quickly notify Congress of what resources they need to mount a defense.

The virus, first detected in 1947, caused mild disease for decades. It's now in more than 20 countries, spread by the Aedes mosquito.

Shaheen notes American public health and military personnel "performed heroically" to stop the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa. While the Zika virus doesn't yet require the same resources, she encourages coordinated efforts with the same urgency.

The World Health Organization declared that the Zika virus is "spreading explosively," and the organization announced it will hold an emergency meeting of independent experts Monday to decide if the outbreak should be declared an international health emergency.

At a special meeting Thursday in Geneva, WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said the virus - which has been linked to birth defects and neurological problems - was becoming much more of a threat. One WHO scientist said the Americas could see up to 4 million cases of Zika in the next year.

Kevin Deane is the Digital Content Manager for NH1.com. You can email him at kdeane@nh1.com and follow him on Twitter, @kdeaneNH1.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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