Bostonian who traveled abroad is first Mass. Zika case

A Boston man contracted the Zika virus while traveling in a country where the mosquito-borne illness is prevalent, health authorities reported Thursday.

The man is the first Massachusetts resident to come down with the virus, which does not typically spread from person to person. Cases have been identified in at least 11 states, all involving people who were infected outside the United States.


The sick Boston resident is expected to recover fully, said Dr. Anita Barry, director of the Boston Public Health Commission’s Infectious Disease Bureau. But she added, “I definitely think we will see more cases.”

Massachusetts is home to thousands of immigrants from some of the 24 countries and territories in Latin America and the Caribbean where Zika is circulating, and they frequently travel back and forth. To protect the privacy of the man who became ill, health officials declined to identify the nation where he traveled.

Although Zika rarely causes serious illness, it has been linked to a devastating birth defect, prompting recommendations that pregnant women consider avoiding the affected areas. A pregnant women can transmit the virus to her child during pregnancy or childbirth.

The breed of mosquito that transmits the Zika virus, Aedes aegypti, is prevalent in the US South, but cannot survive Massachusetts winters. Another breed that might be able to transmit the virus, Aedes albopictus, has been found in limited pockets in the state.

“There are not large enough populations of these mosquitoes for us to be worried about local transmission of Zika virus,” said Dr. Catherine Brown, state public health epidemiologist.


Richard Pollack, a public health entomologist and chairman of the Massachusetts Mosquito Advisory Group, also is not worried. “I would be absolutely surprised if we find Zika in any mosquitoes in the foreseeable future in Massachusetts,” he said.

Felice J. Freyer can be reached at

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