Small Aedes mosquitoes are the primary carriers of the Zika virus. The infection has been spreading quickly in the Americas, now including three confirmed cases in Illinois.
Some pregnant women who have contracted the virus have given birth to babies with birth defects.
Officials from the Boone County Health Department say they are monitoring the virus closely, along with help from the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Amanda Mehl of the Health Department says, “[The CDC will] continue to monitor it as we hit spring and summer months. I don’t know what forms that’s going to take in terms of testing or surveillance, but some of that will depend on the progression of the virus.”
The virus has flu like symptoms, and can last up to a week. Mehl says you can not spread it once it leaves your body.
There have not been any cases in the Stateline. Mehl says it’s possible that the Zika carrying mosquitoes can make their way to the Rockford area.
She says, “We do see that mosquito [the Aedes] in the warmer times of the year, as far up as the Midwest. But as I’ve said before, we don’t have any mainland United States cases of the Zika virus.”
The local Red Cross is so concerned about the Zika virus that they are asking anyone who has traveled to countries in Central and South America, where the virus has a strong presence, to not give blood for a month after returning.
Mehl and the CDC are advising women who are expecting to avoid areas where the virus transmission is ongoing. Meanwhile there is a race going on to find a vaccine.
Officials say a vaccine typically takes ten years to develop, but they are working with urgency to find a Zika cure.