South Dakota has its first confirmed case of the Zika virus, but state health officials say people in the state shouldn't be concerned.
“Even if we have people in the state who have the Zika virus, they are not able to transfer the virus to other people,” Avera Infection Disease Specialist Dr. Fares Masannat said.
Because so many people travel, state leaders say it was only a matter of time before someone in South Dakota was diagnosed with Zika; the virus is contracted by infected mosquitoes found in tropical areas.
“It is a concern if you travel,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Lon Kightlinger said. “We have a lot of mosquitoes in South Dakota, but we do not have the type of mosquito that carries the Zika virus.”
Mosquito traps are set up all over South Dakota to monitor different types of mosquitoes that could be carrying all kinds of different viruses.
“We're basically dividing them up into genes and species…we haven't found any of the Zika carrying mosquitoes,” City of Sioux Falls health coordinator Denise Patton said.
But state officials have found plenty of mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus.
“West Nile is actually a worse disease than the Zika virus,” Dr. Kightlinger said.
“Four out of five people who get the Zika virus do not develop symptoms; a lot of people who are infected have no idea,” Dr. Masannat said.
People infected with West Nile are far more likely to see symptoms like extreme fatigue, fevers and some cases can develop meningitis, which can have some extreme effects.
“We've had hundreds almost a thousand people in South Dakota end up in the hospital with West Nile,” Dr. Kightlinger said.
“Every year we have some patients who get extremely ill and in some cases they can actually die,” Dr. Masannat said.
This year 53 South Dakotans have already contracted West Nile, with the most dangerous part of the season still ahead.
“September is our peak month…we know that the virus is present in the city and the state, and this is the time of year where people can't get complacent about wearing bug spray or long sleeves,” Patton said.
Even though it's unlikely the mosquito species that carries the Zika virus will ever be found in South Dakota, health officials will continue to monitor the state's mosquito population and will alert the public if it does become a concern in the future.