3 pregnant women in Illinois confirmed with Zika virus

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - Three pregnant women are now among 46 confirmed cases of Zika virus across the state, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Illinois health officials confirmed the newest cases on Thursday.

"We have 8 women in the Zika Virus Pregnancy Registry because at the time of testing they were positive for a flavivirus – CDC was not able to confirm in 5 of those cases whether it was Zika virus or Dengue fever," according to Divya Mohan Little, Public Information Officer at the Illinois Department of Health.

Zika primarily spreads through bites from tropical mosquitoes. In most people, the virus causes only mild illness, but infection during pregnancy can lead to severe brain-related birth defects for the fetus.

Earlier this week, the Illinois Department of Public Health issued a travel alert for South Florida.

Health officials are warning pregnant women to avoid traveling to a small area in southern Florida, where the dangerous virus has been spreading.

"We urge anyone who might be travelling to the Miami area, particularly the areas that the CDC has identified the Zika virus in, to take precautions. Pregnant women should avoid travel to that area,” said Dr. Nirav D. Shah.

The species of mosquito that carries the virus does not survive harsh winters in Illinois, but public health officials say they continue to trap and test mosquitos statewide just in case.

Fourteen people have become infected by the mosquito-borne virus in the Miami area.

If you do go to the Miami area, the Department of Public Health urges you to wear long, loose-fitting clothes and keep yourself sprayed with deet.

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