3 Joint Base Charleston service members contracted Zika while deployed

The Zika virus is creating buzz again. On Friday, officials at Joint Base Charleston confirmed three service members tested positive for the virus after a trip abroad in December 2016.

Local health officials are monitoring the mosquito-borne illness closely, but don't believe the local cases pose a health risk to the general population.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, traveling to Zika-affected areas account for 99 percent of all U.S. cases. Between January 2015 and March 1, 2017, there have been 54 confirmed Zika cases in South Carolina and more than 5,000 nationwide.

"Men or women, pregnant or not, can get Zika-related neurological complications,” said Dr. Robert Ball, an infectious disease consultant, epidemiologist, and adjunct professor at MUSC. “This is a virus not to be dismissed lightly even though four out of five people have no symptoms even when they get it."

RELATED: DHEC issues Zika warning for spring

Ball said Zika complications go beyond microcephaly, a condition in which a baby is born with an abnormally small head and under-developed brain. He said U.S. women have a higher chance of delivering a baby with neurological problems.

He said the recent local cases are not alarming, but people should be concerned, especially when the annoying pests return in abundance.

"There is no treatment, there is no vaccine yet, it's intense research,” said Ball. "The concern is, with the warming temperatures and us not having had truly a frozen winter that the mosquito eggs laden with Zika virus in the southeastern United States will come forth in the spring and in the summer and we may have more and more cases."

He urged people to take precautions during mosquito season, using insect repellant with DEET and wearing long sleeves when working outside.

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