Researchers forecast St. Louis as a hotspot for Zika transmission

ST. LOUIS, MO (KPLR) – Researchers at Saint Louis University say that the City of St. Louis and St. Clair County, Illinois, are among the areas considered at high risk for transmission of Zika infection following a study to predict high risk areas for Zika transmission.

The bulls-eye of predicted Zika transmission is the Mississippi delta. An article in the American Journal of Public Health by Saint Louis University researchers says the virus is also likely to be transmitted in southern states extending northward along the Atlantic coast and in southern California.

“The purpose of this study was not to create unwarranted alarm, but rather to enhance Zika prevention methods such as mosquito control, effective prevention message dissemination, and treatment and care preparation, in advance of a Zika epidemic in the contiguous U.S.,” said Enbal Shacham, Ph.D., M.Ed., associate professor of behavioral sciences and health education at Saint Louis University and the lead author of the study.

The Zika virus can be spread through a mosquito bite, unprotected sexual contact, and blood transfusion. A pregnant woman can pass the virus to her fetus during pregnancy. Nearly 80 percent of people who catch the virus will show no symptoms, which includes: fever, rash, joint soreness, or redness of the eyes.

International health officials suspect a connection between pregnant woman catching the virus and a birth defect called microcephaly in newborns. Babies with microcephaly will have smaller head sizes and their brains may not develop properly.

The CDC recommends pregnant women avoid traveling to Zika-affected areas, such as Mexico, the Caribbean, Central American, and South America. Parts of Florida are also included in the warning.

At present, there is no vaccine for Zika virus.