As the CDC begins to learn more about the Zika virus, it seems as though residents in the state of Illinois are at low risk for contracting the virus. Even though Illinois residents who do not plan on traveling to Central or South America are at a very low risk, they still need to be aware of virus.
What is the Zika virus
The Zika virus has been around for years, but an outbreak began in Brazil close to a year ago, and has become an issue throughout South America. Although symptoms only last a couple of days and present like the flu, the major concern is for pregnant women. The Zika virus can cause severe birth defects including giving birth to babies with smaller heads and brains. There have been three known cases of the Zika virus by Illinois residents, however all three of these individuals did travel out of the country.
Zika mosquito transmission
Why might the Zika virus be lower in Illinois than in other parts of the United States? This is largely due to the type of mosquito that transmits the Zika virus. Researchers have found that the aedes aegypti mosquito is the primary carrier that can transmit the Zika virus to humans. This type of mosquito has rarely been found in the state of Illinois, likely due to the fact that it cannot survive the harsh winter weather in the state. Before this species could grow large enough for an outbreak, the weather would change, killing them off throughout the area. Research is stilling be completed to determine if another mosquito species, the aedes albopictus, can also transmit the Zika virus which can live a bit longer in Illinois.
What has kept the outbreak going in South America
Unlike the United States, several South American countries have a hard time trying to control the mosquito population. In Brazil alone, the government has enlisted the help of soldiers to provide residents with understanding where mosquitoes breed and how to eliminate these locations. For example, mosquitoes are attracted to standing water, which makes a great breeding ground. Screens on doors and windows, as well as insect repellent are not widely available to residents of these countries, which is why the outbreak has become so severe.
How Illinoisans might contract the virus
The CDC has been working hard to urge pregnant women not to travel to any South American countries. Although the Zika virus is low for the state of Illinois, it can be more prominent in the Southern United States. This is also risky as pregnant women tend to travel throughout the United States more often than actually going out of the country. Currently at the North Shore Mosquito Abatement District, crews are being trained to spot what the aedes mosquito looks like in order to use specialized traps to collect them. Executive Director, Roger Nasci, said that this can help the United States to control, manage, and eliminate the mosquito population responsible for spreading the Zika virus.
The United States has done a lot to combat the problem of the West Nile virus. Do you think they will be successful in keeping the Zika virus from spreading in the United States? Let us know below.