A woman researcher at the University of Pittsburgh accidentally infected herself with the dangerous Zika virus while working on an experiment in a lab.
The woman stabbed herself with a needle on May 23 while conducting an experiment with the virus. Nine days later, she began experiencing symptoms consistent with the virus, including a fever.
The symptoms later subsided and she returned to work last Monday. Two days later, the university received confirmation a test was positive for the mosquito-borne illness, CNN reported.
“On advice of the ACHD (Allegheny County Health Department), the researcher is complying with a request to wear long sleeves and pants and wear insect repellent for three weeks from the date of contact,” a university statement said.
Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County Health Department confirmed the woman no longer has symptoms and said she is doing well.
In the statement, it called the case unique because the researcher had not travelled to an area where the virus is circulating and she was not infected through sexual transmission.
Nearly all of the infected individuals in the United States were infected while travelling to destinations where the virus is circulating. There are 11 confirmed cases of the virus among individuals who had not travelled to those places but whose sexual partners had.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said health care workers who handle the virus are encouraged to “take precautions to prevent needle sticks or other exposures.”
“We want to remind residents that, despite this rare incident, there is still no current risk of contracting Zika from mosquitoes in Allegheny County,” Dr Karen Hacker, the health department’s director, said in a statement. It was the fourth case of the virus in the Pennsylvania county.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden was quoted as saying that emergency response teams are ready to be deployed when local transmission of the virus has been confirmed in the continental United States or Hawaii.
Zika virus disease is caused by the Zika virus, which is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito.
The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild, with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
However, Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other severe fetal brain defects.