Tri-State health officials monitoring the Zika virus

Zika virus in the Tri-State (VIDEO)

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The Zika virus has raised a lot of concern on the national level, but many people local to the Tri-State are wondering if they should be concerned.

While there have been no reported cases of the Zika virus locally, the Cincinnati Health Department is monitoring the spread of the mosquito-borne disease.

"We strongly advise pregnant women and those who want to become pregnant to avoid traveling to regions where the virus has been transmitted," stated CHD Medical Director, Dr. O'dell Owens. "Travel to southern States should also be avoided."

Zika is reportedly most dangerous for expecting mothers because of its association with a barrage of severe birth defects including microcephaly, a condition that causes babies to have abnormally small heads resulting in developmental issues and in some cases death.

"These babies are born with small heads, small brains.  Most of them die within the first year.  Some can live, I guess, as long as 35 years, but with a lot of care," Owens said.

CHD is in close contact with area hospitals and healthcare providers, and following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended guidelines. Women who plan to become pregnant should consult their doctors before traveling abroad. Pregnant women who show symptoms of Zika after visiting areas where transmission of the virus has occurred should be tested.

"Pregnant women. That is absolutely the group that is highly concerned right now," said Patty Burns, the Infection Control Manager for St. Elizabeth Healthcare.

Burns told FOX19 NOW that the health system has fielded phone calls from those curious about travel amid the concerns.  Burns believes it's just a matter of time before the virus makes its first appearance in the Tri-State.

"I do think we are going to see cases.  Hopefully they will mostly be travel cases and not naturally occurring – somebody who's never left the area.  Hopefully we won't see those," Burns said.

The virus has recently popped up in the US, and it's thought travelling to and from the infected areas is to blame.  The World Health Organization expects more than 3-million more infections in the next year.

That has helped spark a warning in the Tri-State to be careful where you travel.

"I would say to women don't go.  Don't put yourself at risk if you're in the high-risk category," Owens told FOX19 NOW.

"Our focus right now is education and surveillance," Dr. Owens added. "Those planning to attend the summer Olympics in Brazil should learn how to protect themselves."

According to the CHD, at least 21 countries have reported cases of people contracting the virus, and all reported cases in the U.S. have been linked to people traveling abroad.

Zika is usually mild and does not require hospitalization. Symptoms include:

  • style="text-align: justify; background: white;">fever
  • style="text-align: justify; background: white;">rash
  • style="text-align: justify; background: white;">joint pain
  • style="text-align: justify; background: white;">conjunctivitis  

All of which usually subside after a week, according to reports. 

Officials say the best way to prevent Zika is to avoid regions experiencing an outbreak. If travel cannot be avoided, take steps to prevent mosquito bites.

There is no vaccine for Zika.  

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