Illinois health officials warn travelers about Zika

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

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

The Zika virus is still more than a thousand miles from the Chicago area, but less than three hours by air. And that's why the Illinois Department of Public Health is issuing a travel alert.

"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.

Zika causes only mild symptoms in adults, but can cause serious brain abnormalities in unborn children. Fourteen cases have been reported in Miami with the outbreak confined to a small one-square mile area called the Wynwood Arts District, which is a popular tourist area filled with restaurants and shops.
"We'll probably have 60 million-plus tourists this year. We have 20.3 million people. We are very active in making sure we do everything we can to control the spread of Zika in our state,” said Florida Governor Rick Scott.

Miami is also a major departure point for people taking cruise vacations.

At Ok Travel on the southwest side, travel agent Karen Kimmey says she hasn't seen any Florida cancelations - yet.

"In the beginning when this all started we were getting some calls of concern from people travelling to Mexico and the Caribbean. And I have had some cancelations, which is understandable. You have to do what's right for you,” Kimmey said.

Consumers looking to cancel flights to Florida may be out of luck. So far, Delta is the only major airline that has said it will consider changing or canceling travel because of Zika.

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

"In the world we live in, infectious diseases don't obey boundaries. They don't obey state boundaries,” said Dr. Shah. "And so we have to make sure we are prepared for the possibility the mosquito might arrive clower to our shores."

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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