Three people in the District of Columbia area are confirmed to be infected with the Zika virus, according to The Washington Post.
The District's Department of Health spokesman, Marcus Williams, told The Washington Post on Feb. 4 that one case was uncovered in the District in 2015, and two more, including a pregnant woman, were diagnosed in 2016.
The Zika virus, which is carried by mosquitoes, was declared a “global health emergency” by the World Health Organization after an outbreak in Latin America escalated the number of confirmed cases.
Although the virus causes flu-like symptoms in most people, it is especially dangerous for pregnant women, as it is “strongly suspected” of causing the birth defect microcephaly, which causes babies to be born with brain damage.
The virus can spread from an infected mosquito bite, and can be transmitted from person to person through sexual activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control. All three infected people in the District contracted the virus after traveling in affected areas in Central America.
Williams stressed that although the virus is spreading rapidly throughout Central and South America, mosquitoes that carry the virus are not found in the U.S.
“It is important for residents to remember that there is no immediate threat to their health and well-being if they have not traveled to the known affected areas,” Williams wrote in an email to The Washington Post.
On Feb. 1, the Districts' Department of Health issued a notice about the Zika virus and circulated a fact sheet at community meetings. However, the initial fact sheet and notice did not contain information about the three confirmed cases.
“It’s February, it’s not mosquito season … and this isn’t a communicable disease,” Williams told the Washington Post. “We definitely did not want to alarm the public that there has been any immediate threat. But we definitely wanted to inform the public.”
Pregnant women who have traveled internationally and are concerned that they are showing symptoms of the virus, according to Williams, can have their blood sent to the CDC to be tested for the Zika virus for free.