First case of Zika virus confirmed in Maryland

Health officials have announced the first confirmed case of the Zika virus in Maryland.

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said the affected patient in this case traveled to a country where Zika transmission has been active and ongoing. The virus was confirmed after a blood test was conducted on the patient.

"Our department will continue to actively partner with the CDC, Maryland healthcare providers, laboratories, and health departments to provide support to Marylanders at risk of Zika infection - especially to pregnant women," said Secretary Van T. Mitchell. "As CDC guidance has evolved, we actually have expanded access to testing for people who had not met that agency's initial testing criteria."

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that is suspected of causing microcephaly, a rare birth defect that causes an abnormally small head, which can indicate underlying brain damage.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the virus chiefly is transmitted by mosquito, but there have been reports of cases involving sexual transmission and blood transfusion.

Symptoms of Zika may include fever, rash, conjunctivitis and joint pain. But not all people who become infected with the virus will display symptoms. According to the CDC, about only one in five people will display symptoms.

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said they will be sending samples directly to the CDC for analysis.