During a press conference Friday, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) division of vector borne diseases director, Dr. Lyle Petersen, discussed the outlook of Zika spread in the United States.

Aedes aegypti/CDC
Aedes aegypti/CDC

“CDC continues to work with states to monitor for mosquito-borne diseases, including Zika. The first travel-associated Zika virus disease case among U.S. travelers was reported in 2007. From 2007 to 2014, a total of 14 returning U.S. travelers had positive Zika virus testing performed at CDC, Petersen noted.

“In 2015 and 2016 at least eight U.S. travelers have had positive Zika virus testing performed at CDC. However, CDC is still receiving samples for Zika virus testing from returning U.S. travelers who became ill in 2015 or 2016.

We’re not able to predict how much Zika virus will spread in the United States. Many areas of the United States have mosquitoes that can become infected with and transmit Zika virus. However, recent chikungunya and dengue outbreaks in the United States suggest that Zika outbreaks in the U.S. mainland may be relatively small and focal.

“In the U.S., other mosquito- spread infections like malaria and dengue used to be widespread. Better housing construction, regular use of air conditioning, use of window screens and door screens and state and local mosquito control efforts helped to eliminate these ongoing outbreaks from the mainland.

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Because of this uncertainty, however, it is important that we maintain and improve our ability to identify and test for Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases. Finally, I’d like to reiterate the importance of taking precautions to avoid mosquito bites if you are traveling to an area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.”