2 Illinois pregnant women test positive for Zika virus

CHICAGO (STMW) - Two pregnant Illinois women who recently traveled abroad have tested positive for the Zika virus.

The women recently returned from an area where the virus is found, which includes Brazil, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico and other areas of South and Central America, according to IDPH.

Zika, like West Nile virus, is contracted through mosquito bites, and is usually mild, but there is a possible link between the virus and birth defects in children, according to a statement from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

“There is virtually no risk to Illinois residents since you cannot contract Zika virus from another person, but only through the bite of an infected mosquito,” IDPH Director Dr. Nirav Shah said in the statement.

“But since this is a time of year when people travel to warmer climates and countries where Zika virus is found, we are urging residents, especially pregnant women, to take preventive measures when traveling in affected countries and check health travel advisories,” Shah said.

An IDPH spokesman would not say where in Illinois the infected pregnant women live, and would ot disclose their ages. A spokesman for the Cook County Department of Public Health said the department had not been notified of any cases in Cook County.

Common symptoms, which can last for several days to weeks, include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis, IDPH said. There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a travel alert for people going to countries where the virus is found.

There have been reports of microcephaly and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies in Brazil when mothers are infected, but the CDC said more studies are needed.

In the meantime, it “recommends that pregnant women in any trimester should consider postponing travel to the areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Pregnant women, women trying to become pregnant, or women who are thinking about becoming pregnant and must travel to one of these areas should talk with their doctor or other health care provider first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites…”