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IDPH on Zika Precautions

Chicagoans, be wary of Miami travel

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is echoing the unprecedented recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that pregnant women avoid travel to an area in Miami, Florida, because of the risk of Zika virus. This recommendation comes after the Florida Department of Health identified a one-square mile neighborhood just north of downtown Miami, which includes Wynwood, where the Zika virus is being spread by mosquitoes. So far more than 15 cases have been reported, marking the first time that Zika has been locally transmitted in the continental United States.

The CDC, which deployed an emergency response team to Miami, has issued guidelines for people who visited this area any time after June 15, 2016. “We know that Miami is a popular travel destination for Illinoisans and we urge all residents to follow updated CDC recommendations, given that it is now possible to contract Zika virus in the United States,” said IDPH Director Nirav D. Shah, MD, JD. “We want to make sure that people traveling to the Miami area have the facts so that they can protect themselves from being infected.”

Here are the recommendations for pregnant women and their partners:

  • Pregnant women should not travel to the affected area.
  • Pregnant women and their partners traveling to this area should follow steps to prevent mosquito bites.
  • Anyone who traveled to this area and who has a pregnant sex partner should always use condoms or other barriers to prevent infection or not have sex during pregnancy.
  • Pregnant women who frequently travel to this area should be tested in the first and second trimester of pregnancy.
  • Pregnant women with possible Zika virus exposure and signs or symptoms of Zika virus should be tested for Zika virus.
  • Pregnant women who traveled to this area or had unprotected sex with a partner who traveled to or lives in this area should talk to their healthcare provider and should be tested for Zika virus.
  • Women with Zika should wait at least eight weeks and men with Zika should wait at least six months after symptoms began before they try to conceive.
  • Men and women who traveled to this area or other areas where Zika is being transmitted should talk to their providers before they try to get pregnant.
  • Upon returning to Illinois, travelers should take precautions to prevent the spread of Zika virus, even if they don’t think they have it, Dr. Shah said. Travelers should watch for symptoms after returning home, call a healthcare provider immediately if they suspect Zika virus, use insect repellent for three weeks after travel, and use condoms during sex.

Illinois Still Safe

As for Zika being contracted directly by citizens in Illinois, so far that does not seem likely. According to Allison Arwady, MD, chief medical officer, Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH), the species of mosquito that most easily carries the Zika virus (Aedes aegypti) is not native to Illinois. In order for a mosquito to transmit the virus, it must first bite someone who already has it.

Dr. Arwady says the CDC is studying the reported cases of sexually transmitted Zika, but these cases are rare. And while the Zika virus is a concern for pregnant women, Dr. Arwady says it should be of little worry for practically everyone else; 80% of those who contract the virus don’t even know they have it, and those who do become ill generally don’t suffer long-term consequences and rarely need hospitalization.

CDC Offers Funds

While President Obama requested Congress in February to approve about $1.9 billion in emergency funds to fight Zika at home and abroad, and pursue a vaccine, so far lawmakers have not passed funding legislation. In the meantime, the CDC reports it has provided more than $16 million to 35 states and five territories to help detect any cases of microcephaly, and other Zika-related conditions.

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