A lab researcher has contracted Zika virus after accidentally piercing herself with an infected needle. The case is believed to be the United States' first Zika infection contracted through a lab.

The accident occurred on May 23 at the University of Pittsburgh. The female lab researcher developed Zika infection symptoms on June 1. On June 6, the woman's fever had gone and she resumed work immediately.

But on June 8, the university discovered that the woman's blood sample tested positive for Zika virus. Unlike a cold, the Zika virus doesn't spread through human contact. The Zika virus' main method of transmission is through the bite of an infected mosquito — Aedes albopictus or Aedes aegypti.

While recent reports found that men are capable of transmitting the virus through sex, it remains unknown if women can do the same. The woman returning to work doesn't put her coworkers at risk.

For protection, the lab researcher has agreed to wear protective gear, that is, long sleeves and pants, as well as insect repellant for three weeks. This will prevent the mosquitoes in the lab from biting her and contracting the virus.

According to Amesh Adalja from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, an Aedes mosquito would need to bite the lab researcher, spend a few days incubating the virus and then bite someone else for the woman to spread the Zika virus to other people. After a mosquito bites an infected individual, it does not become contagious right away.

The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) confirmed that this is the county's fourth case of Zika infection.

"We want to remind residents that, despite this rare incident, there is still no current risk of contracting Zika from mosquitos in Allegheny County," said Dr. Karen Hacker, director of ACHD.

Hacker stressed the need for caution for people traveling to Zika-affected countries. She urged pregnant women to postpone travels to these affected areas.

Zika Infection

Typical Zika infection symptoms include fever, joint pain, rash and red eyes. There are also infected people who suffer from headaches and muscle pain. The exact days between exposure to virus and manifestation of symptoms is unknown but the incubation period can range from a few days to about a week.

"Most people infected with Zika virus won't even know they have the disease because they won't have symptoms," said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

People who have been infected by the virus are more likely to become protected from future infections, the CDC added.

Photo: Alden Chadwick | Flickr

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