Chicago receiving federal funds to fight Zika

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Chicago is getting some federal money to help in the struggle against Zika virus. (WLS)

Even without congressional approval of the president's request for $1.9 billion in funding for fighting the Zika virus, Chicago is getting some federal money to help in the struggle.

The money comes after reports of the first possible non-sexual transmission of the mosquito-borne virus in the United States.

That may have happened recently in Florida where a person who was bitten by a Zika-carrying mosquito returned to the United States, was bitten by a non-Zika mosquito, which, now infected, then bit a woman, or so that's what some think happened.

Allison Arwady has been Chicago's chief medical officer at the Chicago Department of Public Health in this past year of Zika. She said even if the type of mosquito that carries the virus isn't prevalent in the northern United States, people need to use repellent, wear long sleeves and get rid of standing water to mitigate the threat.

Two hundred thousand dollars in new funds from the Centers for Disease Control will dovetail with existing mosquito abatement programs.

"We have posters and taxi tops and billboards especially on the way out to airports where you are going to be hitting travelers," Arwady said.

Posters and the hashtags #StopZika, or in Spanish, #PareZika will be all over areas such as airports. Currently the CDC reports 30 Zika cases in Illinois.

"The great majority of them are in travelers who were in an area with Zika and bitten by an aedes aegypti mosquito and returned. We have had a few cases of sexual transmission," Arwady said.

The virus may cause microcephaly -- a birth defect that results in children being born with abnormally small heads. The CDPH does not think Zika will explode here, but the advice for those planning a family is to be cautious. Condoms should be used for at least eight weeks after returning from Zika-infected regions. A vaccine is years away.

"Anytime we are talking about a vaccine, especially for pregnant women, there is so much work that needs to be done," she said.

The CDC and the Miami-Dade County health authorities are now testing mosquitos there for Zika. But late Thursday afternoon, a Florida health department spokeswoman said it's premature to conclude whether or not the Zika infection of that Miami-area woman is related to sex or travel.
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