Two pregnant Illinois residents have tested positive for the Zika virus, prompting a warning from the Illinois Department of Public Health for anyone traveling abroad.
The two women recently traveled to countries where the Zika virus is found and physicians are monitoring their health and pregnancies, according to state health officials.
Zika, a tropical virus spread by mosquitoes, is suspected of causing severe birth defects in Brazil and has since been found in Hawaii.
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"There is virtually no risk to Illinois residents since you cannot contract Zika virus from another person, but only through the bite of an infected mosquito," IDPH Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D. said in a statement. "But since this is a time of year when people travel to warmer climates and countries where Zika virus is found, we are urging residents, especially pregnant women, to take preventive measures when traveling in affected countries and check health travel advisories."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a travel alert for people traveling to regions and countries where the Zika virus is found. The locations include Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico.
The alert followed reports in Brazil of microcephaly in babies of mothers who were infected with the virus while pregnant, but researchers have said additional studies are needed to determine the relationship, if any, between the virus and the defect. Microcephaly can often times be a severe birth defect that can kill an unborn child or cause disabilities. The condition causes the brain and head to be smaller than usual and can be caused by genetics, alcohol use during pregnancy or infections such as rubella.
The CDC recommends pregnant women in any trimester should consider postponing travel to the areas where the Zika virus transmission is ongoing.
Symptoms including fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis can last from several days to weeks and there is no vaccine to prevent or treat an infection.
The IDPH recommends anyone who does travel uses an insect repellent, wears long sleeves and pants, and stays in places with air conditioning or window and door screens.