CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Medical experts have sounded the alarm over the Zika Virus. But will it affect us here in Northeast Ohio?
On Thursday, the World Health Organization said the virus is spreading at an explosive rate across the Americas.
The virus is spreading so fast, it could infect as many as four million people within the next 12 months.
Right now there are 31 confirmed cases in 11 states and the District of Columbia.
Doctors say we're safe from the Zika virus in Ohio but experts say it's possible that we'll see limited outbreaks here in the U.S grow over time.
The Zika virus is not new, but its spread to the Americas is.
"It's breaking out in a new location and in a larger number than we've ever seen before," said Dr. Amy Edwards, an infectious disease specialist with University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland.
Dr. Edwards says the virus, carried by a mosquito, was most often found in Africa and Asia.
About 80% of people with the Zika virus don't even feel sick.
But the real danger affects pregnant women and their babies.
The World Health Organization has issued a travel warning for pregnant women traveling to Central and South America.
The Mosquito-borne virus is linked to birth defects.
"At the moment if you live in Ohio and are staying in Ohio, there are no concerns. It's the middle of winter and we don't have mosquitos in the winter in Ohio. However if you're traveling to Latin America and in particular if you're pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant and are traveling to Latin America, you need to speak to your doctor," Dr. Edwards said.
Health officials are still investigating whether there's a link between the Zika virus and microcephaly in babies, but they're not taking any chances.
The birth defect is very serious.
"The head is smaller than it's supposed to be, and if the head is smaller, the brain is smaller and these kids are at risk for brain damage and mental retardation and things like that," she said.
Some islands in the Caribbean have also been affected.
We asked if you can catch the virus if someone carrying it brings it back to the U.S.
"The only way it can spread is if the mosquito bites that person while they have the virus in their bloodstream," Dr. Edwards said. "Zika virus doesn't seem to be contagious from human to human spread."
Even when it gets warmer here in Ohio, you'll be happy to hear we don't have this type of mosquito in the area.
"This one in particular like more tropical areas, so Florida and Puerto Rico," Dr. Edwards said.
Right now there are still a lot of questions about the virus.
Dr. Edwards leaves us with this advice.
"I think the most important thing is not to panic," she said.
According to the CDC, symptoms of the Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain or pink eye.
The illness is pretty mild and symptoms only last for several days or a week.
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