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UPDATE: The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has been keeping track of Zika cases statewide. The Centers for Disease Control reports that, while the primary mode of transmission for Zika virus is from the bite of an infected mosquito, it is possible to transmit Zika virus through sexual contact.
On July 15, 2016, the New York Times reported the first case of female-to-male sexual transmission of the Zika virus was documented in New York City.
According to the CDC:
When a virus with the potential to cause serious complications starts to spread, especially one that’s not familiar, it can be unnerving.
Zika virus is one of those. Most of the time, people contract the virus through mosquito bites. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). People with this illness are not usually very sick, and symptoms disappear after several days to a week.
However, Zika virus may cause some sobering problems, such as Guillain-Barre syndrome and birth defects.
Zika virus has been on the radar for some time. It was first isolated from a monkey in Zika forest in Uganda in 1947. In May 2015, The Pan American Health Organization issued an alert about a Zika infection in Brazil.
Recently, the World Health Organization announced the Zika virus was a public health emergency of international concern. In a statement on its website, the organization said the best ways to prevent the spread of the virus “are the control of mosquito populations and the prevention of mosquito bites in at-risk individuals, especially pregnant women.”
The American Red Cross has asked people to hold off on donating blood for 28 days if they’ve been to a Zika-infected area.
Knowledge is a powerful prevention tool. Here are some important facts about Zika virus:
Most people in the United States will not come into contact with the Zika virus, as pointed out by CDC Director Tom Frieden in an article by CNN. The people who should be most concerned are people living in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Caribbean or Pacific territories, and Central and South America.
Because the Zika virus may cause birth defects, the CDC has warned pregnant women to avoid those areas, and if they’re there, to take steps to prevent mosquito bites. If you are a woman who is planning to conceive and may have recently traveled to the affected areas or plan to travel to the areas, please contact your OB/GYN physician for recommendations.
Mosquitoes are the primary vehicle. While the virus is mainly transmitted by mosquitoes, it can also spread through sexual contact, blood transfusions and (rarely) from mother to child during birth.
There is no vaccine available to prevent Zika from infecting us, so protecting yourself from mosquitoes is your best defense. If you’re in a high-alert location, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and insect repellant.
The CDC reports that most people who are infected with Zika will not get sick. If you are infected and experience symptoms, treat yourself as if you have a flu virus: rest, fluids, pain reliever/fever reducer.
Think before you book that trip. Check the CDC’s Zika Travel Information.
For more information, visit the CDC's Zika website.
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