The University of Alabama has notified students about one or more “confirmed cases” of the Zika virus on its campus as a result of persons studying or traveling abroad to widely affected areas.
An email from the Education Abroad department advised all students who had recently visited Mexico, the Caribbean, or Central or South America to get tested for the virus.
“Most people infected with Zika virus won’t even know they have the disease because they won’t have symptoms,” the letter read.
UA spokesman Chris Bryant reiterated the message to the public. “We recommended, as precaution, these students visit the Student Health Center or their healthcare provider to be tested if they are experiencing symptoms,” he wrote.
Symptoms may be mild and could include fever, rash, or joint pain. Zika can also produce birth defects in pregnant women. While no locally-transmitted cases have been reported in the United States, the virus can spread through sexual intercourse between partners.
At least one current student at the University has tested positive for Zika after a study abroad trip. “Federal privacy laws prevent us from commenting on the student’s condition; however, in the majority of Zika cases, individuals make a full recovery within a week,” Bryant said.
The Zika virus is carried by a particular breed of mosquito, the Aedes aegypti, not common to Alabama, though it could likely appear in parts of Florida and the Southwest, according to new maps from the Centers for Disease Control.
The U.S. Congress has been reluctant to pass the Obama administration’s proposed $1.9 billion in funding to combat Zika on American soil, though some $500 million has already been redirected from previous fights against Ebola.
Those billions may sound steep for pest control, but it’s nothing compared to the $30 billion in damage to crops and structures caused by termites and other pests every year, for example. CDC Director Tom Frieden recently told the Washington Post that Congress needs to act quickly so that funds can be available when and where they’re needed most.
For the time being, the Alabama Department of Public Health has recommended that pregnant women avoid travel to Zika-infected countries.