First Zika Case Confirmed in Chicago

Aedes albopictus (Asian tiger mosquito), can transmit the Zika virus.Aedes albopictus (Asian tiger mosquito), can transmit the Zika virus.

The first case of Zika virus in Chicago was confirmed on Monday morning, marking the fifth confirmed case of the virus in Illinois.

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The patient, who was identified as a woman in her 30s, visited Chicago's Presence Saint Joseph Hospital in late January, after returning from a trip to Columbia with symptoms consistent with the virus.

“Based on her clinical symptoms there was a high suspicion that she had Zika virus,” Presence Saint Joseph Hospital CEO Dr. Roberta Luskin-Hawk said during a Monday morning press conference.

The patient’s physician arranged for blood tests for a variety of illnesses, including Zika virus. Those tests were sent to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta via the Illinois Department of Public Health.

“The woman returned home after her doctors’ visit and was never admitted to our hospital. The patient was seen by Dr. Weinstein two weeks ago and she has made a full recovery,” Luskin-Hawk said.

Monday morning the hospital learned the patient had tested positive for Zika from the IDPH and CDC.

“We do not anticipate any lasting complications from this infection; she is not currently pregnant and does not appear to need any additional medical follow-up,” Luskin-Hawk said. “There is no reason to suspect that the patient contracted Zika in Chicago. And at no time was anyone in our hospital, the physician’s office or those who have had casual contact with the patient at any risk of contracting the Zika virus.” 

While the majority of patients do not experience symptoms of Zika virus, a lot of attention has been paid to the association between the virus and prevalence of microcephaly, a birth defect that causes underdeveloped heads and brains of infants, in areas where the Zika virus is endemic.

“I think what’s important about this virus is to understand that the overwhelming majority of patients will have no symptoms at all, and those who have symptoms, the overwhelming majority are going to recover completely,” Luskin-Hawk said.

People who plan to travel to areas that have an outbreak of Zika virus should take precautions to prevent daytime and nighttime mosquito bites, Luskin-Hawk said.

Since the virus can be sexually transmitted, partners of pregnant women should take extra precautions and consult the CDC’s recommendations to prevent sexual transmission of the disease, which includes using condoms correctly and consistently or abstaining from sexual intercourse.

Of the known sexually transmitted occurrences of the virus, the male partners had Zika symptoms, according to the CDC. The virus can be transmitted sexually before, during or after men have symptoms.

While the virus can be present in semen longer than blood, it is unknown how long the virus is present in semen in men who have had the Zika virus, the CDC says.

Follow Kristen Thometz on Twitter: @kristenthometz


Zika Virus Raises Concern for Chicago Travelers

Feb. 2: The World Health Organization declared the Zika virus an international public health emergency. Dr. Allison Arwady, chief medical officer of the Chicago Department of Public Health, joins us to discuss the virus and the risk it poses to Chicago jet-setters.

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