Five days ago the CDC issued a Level 2 (Enhanced Precautions) Travel Alert for Zika Virus for portions of South & Central America and the Caribbean, and while specifically mentioning 14 countries and territories, granted that the number of affected regions would likely expand.
As of today, PAHO lists 20 countries and territories in the Americas with autochthonous transmission of the Zika Virus, and that number is only expected to rise.
Yesterday it was widely reported (see 2 cases of Zika virus confirmed in Miami-Dade County) that Florida's DOH had confirmed 3 recently arrived international travelers had been diagnosed with the Zika virus; two in Miami-Dade who returned from Columbia last month, and one in Hillsborough County who visited Venezuela in December.
Again yesterday, the Illinois State Department of Health announced two pregnant women - with recent travel to Zika endemic areas - have tested positive for the virus.
Two pregnant Illinois residents who recently traveled to countries where Zika virus is found have tested positive for the virus. Physicians are monitoring their health and pregnancies.
“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,” said IDPH Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D. “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.”SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is alerting the public of the potential of contracting Zika virus while traveling abroad. Zika virus is spread to people through mosquito bites, similar to West Nile virus or dengue fever. While illness is usually mild and severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon, there is a possible link between Zika virus infection in pregnant women and subsequent birth defects.
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This is precisely the kind of scenario the CDC hopes to avoid going forward with their recently issued travel warning.
During the dead of winter mosquito activity is practically non-existent across much of the nation, and significantly dampened even here in central Florida. Were this summer or fall, there would be greater concern over the possibility of viremic visitors `seeding' the virus into local mosquito populations and sparking local transmission.
This is how both Dengue and Chikunungya are believed to have been (temporarily) introduced into Florida's mosquito population in recent years, and local transmission has occurred (see Arboviruses: (Already) Coming To America).
With Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya all spreading rapidly across the tropical Americas, this is a threat we will undoubtedly have to deal with increasingly over the coming months and years.