||Communicable Diseases in the News
The Diseases in the News page has information and links for certain communicable diseases
that have recently been in the news:
February 2016: Zika Virus
Zika is a disease caused by Zika virus that is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika will get sick. For people who get sick, the illness is usually mild. For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected. 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.
There have been reports of a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly (a condition in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age) and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant. Until more is known, CDC recommends special precautions for pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant, including considering postponing travel to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.
To date, local vector-borne transmission of Zika virus has not been identified in St. Louis or the continental United States. However, anyone who travels to an area where Zika virus is found and has not already been infected with Zika virus can get it from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine to prevent Zika. The best way to prevent diseases spread by mosquitoes is to protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites.
There is no specific medicine to treat Zika virus infections. The symptoms of the disease are treated by getting plenty or rest, drinking fluids to prevent dehydration, taking medicine such as acetaminophen (not aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to reduce fever and pain.
For more information:
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is continually providing new information about dealing with the Ebola virus and managing possibly infected patients.
Concerned health care providers who want updated guidance should visit the CDC website at:
October 2014: Ebola
There has been a lot of news coverage about the Ebola virus lately; however, it is important to remember that no Ebola cases have occurred in the St. Louis region. Regardless, the Saint Louis County Department of Health is consulting regularly with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to monitor the situation.
Ebola is not significantly different from other diseases that require isolation and quarantine and the American healthcare system – including hospitals in the St. Louis region – are prepared to handle such illnesses.
All relevant information about the virus is being shared regularly with area hospitals and medical providers, including how hospital staff can stay protected when handling possible Ebola cases and what the CDC-recommended procedures are for identifying, containing, and isolating the virus.
For more information about the Ebola virus, please visit the links below:
July 2014: Chikungunya
The mosquito-spread viral illness appeared in St. Louis County in late July 2014 when a resident returned home after a trip to the Caribbean Islands. During the trip, the patient was bitten by an infected mosquito.
The travel-related case of the virus is the only one to occur in the St. Louis region.
The virus has not been regularly found among people living in the St. Louis region or in mosquitoes found in the area.
Typical symptoms are severe joint pain and fever. Other symptoms may include headaches, muscle pain, joint swelling or a rash. While the illness is not often fatal, some people may experience severe and disabling symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
Many patients will feel better in about 7 days but others may experience joint pain for months.
The CDC says that a person who has recovered from the illness is likely to be protected from future infections.
There is no medicine to cure the disease or vaccine to prevent the illness. The best course of action, if infected, is to get plenty of rest, drink fluids to prevent dehydration and take medicines to treat the fever and pain.
The Saint Louis County Department of Health and the CDC recommend the following tips to avoid mosquito bites, and lower their risk to the chikungunya virus:
For more information:
Ill individuals should be evaluated by a medical provider. Healthcare providers are encouraged to report suspected chikungunya cases to their local health department to facilitate diagnosis and mitigate the risk of local transmission.
There are about 300 travel-related chikungunya cases throughout the United States. And only two cases have occurred, in Florida, to people who did not travel outside the U.S.
The chikungunya virus likely will continue to spread to new areas in the Americas (North America, Central America, and South America) through infected people and mosquitoes.
June 2014: Measles
A highly contagious viral disease with 13 cases reported in Kansas City in early June and numerous other cases appearing in Ohio, Minnesota and San Diego.
Symptoms include fever, runny nose, cough and rash all over the body. Other symptoms are watery eyes, body aches, feeling run down, and tiny white spots in the mouth. About 10 percent of children with measles may have an ear infection, 5 percent may have pneumonia, 1 in 1,000 will get encephalitis (a swelling of the brain), and 1 or 2 in 1,000 may die, the CDC says.
The virus travels through the air after an infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes.
While most Americans are vaccinated against measles, outbreaks occur overseas in countries where vaccinations occur less often. If a measles-infected person visits the US, they could spread the infection to unvaccinated or unprotected persons.
There is no specific antiviral therapy for measles. Medical care is supportive and to help relieve symptoms and address complications such as bacterial infections.
Timely vaccination is the best way to prevent measles. Infants and young children are at high risk of getting a serious case of measles. CDC recommends two doses of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine for everyone starting at age 12 months. For those travelling internationally, CDC recommends that all U.S. residents older than 6 months receive MMR vaccine, if needed, prior to departure.
For specific vaccination recommendations, please visit:
For more information:
May 2014: MERS - (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome)
Although only two cases of MERS – Middle East Respiratory Syndrome – have only been found in the Great Lakes Area, about 300 miles from the St. Louis Metropolitan Area, here is some information about the disease for concerned residents and parents.
Symptoms – MERS symptoms are similar to the flu: fever, cough and shortness of breath. About 70 percent of people diagnosed with MERS have recovered, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A person with the MERS virus may have symptoms within seven to 14 days of exposure to the virus. There are many people who have the virus without the symptoms, said Alan Zelicoff, a doctor and professor at Saint Louis University.
Infection – The virus that causes MERS is believed to be spread by close contact, such as caring or residing, with an ill person.
Suggestions – People who suspect that they have MERS should schedule an appointment with their doctor or healthcare provider immediately and mention their recent travel overseas or travel pattern for the last few weeks. People who are ill should stay at home to reduce the chance of other people becoming ill.
For more information, visit the following link:
April 2013: Bats and Rabies
The arrival of warmer weather means bats will be coming out of hibernation. There are a number of diseases that a small proportion of bats carry that can be transmitted to people including rabies. The Saint Louis County Department of Health wants to remind residents to take caution when bats are near.
For more information, visit the following link:
August 2012: Pertussis Information
With the start of the new school year approaching, the Saint Louis County Department of Health is urging parents to take steps to reduce the chances of their children getting pertussis. Also known as known as “whooping cough,” pertussis primarily strikes children and is highly contagious. The health department is tracking an increase in the number of cases in 2012. Of the 164 cases among county residents this year, 59 have been reported since June 1st. This is elevated compared to the same time period during the last five years. Infants (<1 year old) and 10- to 17-year-olds are the most affected age groups.
For more information, visit the links below:
November 2010: Pertussis Information
Reported numbers of Pertussis cases in Missouri have increased during 2010. Through November 13, a total of 426 confirmed and probable Pertussis cases have been reported statewide, representing a 32.7% increase above the 5-year median for this time period. The largest numbers of reported cases in 2010 have been from St. Louis County, where 126 confirmed and probable cases have been identified through November 13. For more information, visit the links below:
August 2010: Cryptosporidiosis (Crypto) Information
The Saint Louis County Department of Health is experiencing a significant increase in reported cases of a diarrheal illness called cryptosporidiosis (crypto).
In the past week, 18 new cases of crypto have been identified. Of these, six are laboratory confirmed. The rest have occurred among persons with symptoms who have close ties to confirmed cases. So far this year, there have been 56 identified cases compared to 10 cases during the same period last year. For more information, visit the links below:
Please also note the following:
Reducing the Risk of Introducing the New H1N1 Virus into the Camp Setting
- Provide camp attendees, staff, and volunteers with materials prior to arrival at the camp to notify them that they are not allowed to attend camp if they have had an influenza-like illness in the seven (7) days prior to the start of camp. In addition, they should be reminded that if they have been exposed to a person with new H1N1 or an influenza-like illness in the seven (7) days prior to the start of camp, they may attend camp, but should closely self-monitor and report the development of influenza-like symptoms immediately.
- Consider active screening of ALL newly arriving camp attendees, staff, and volunteers by asking if they have had any influenza-like symptoms in the previous seven (7) days.
- Provide education to individual campers about reporting influenza-like illnesses. A careful health history of each arriving camper should be taken. Note any conditions that may place them at high risk for complications of influenza.
- Camp attendees, staff, and volunteers should be instructed to immediately inform camp management if they currently have or have had an influenza-like illness in the seven (7) days prior to arrival.
- Persons who currently have or have had an influenza-like illness in the previous seven (7) days should not attend camp for seven (7) days after their symptoms began, or until they have been symptom-free for 24 hours – whichever is longer.
For a complete listing of communicable diseases and fact sheets, please visit the US CDC's
"Health Topics A to Z"