Hospital officials in Chicago confirmed on Monday that a female patient at Presence Saint Joseph Hospital tested positive for the Zika virus. The woman was tested because she recently traveled to Colombia, and had symptoms consistent with the Zika virus. There are five confirmed cases of the Zika Virus in Illinois, but this is the first known case in Chicago.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that tests from the patient, identified only as a woman in her 30’s were positive for the Zika Virus. The woman returned from Columbia in late January and sought treatment at her primary care physician but was never hospitalized. The woman, who is not pregnant recovered on her own.
The Illinois Department of Public Health confirmed that a man who traveled to South America and two pregnant women tested positive for the mosquito-borne virus after traveling in Honduras and Haiti. The symptoms of the Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes. Most people exposed to the Zika virus suffer only mild symptoms. However, the risk is far greater for pregnant women because of a possible link to a birth defect.
On February 1st, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Zika virus a global health emergency. The WHO estimates Zika could eventually affect as many as 4 million people in the Americas and may spread to parts of Africa and Asia. To date, birth defects associated with the Zika virus, including microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with abnormally small heads have been almost entirely confined to Brazil. Brazil officials have confirmed more than 580 cases of microcephaly and is investigating more than 4,100 suspected cases.
There is no vaccine or treatment for the Zika virus. An estimated 80 percent of people infected have no symptoms, making it difficult for pregnant women to know whether they have been infected. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Zika virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquitoes–the same mosquitoes that spread dengue and chikungunya viruses. The Zika virus can be spread by a man to his sex partners. In known cases of likely sexual transmission, the men had symptoms of the Zika virus. The virus is present in semen longer than in blood.
The CDC has confirmed several dozens of cases of the mosquito-spread virus in the United States, mostly in travelers returning from affected countries. Health officials expect the number of Zika infections to rise after students return from warm destinations on spring break.