U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is among the federal lawmakers asking the Obama administration for a more coordinated response to the Zika virus.
Durbin and the rest of the Senate Democrats sent a letter to President Obama, encouraging him to develop an "interagency response" to the virus.
"There is a critical and urgent need for a robust and coordinated response at all levels of government, and it is necessary to enhance efforts to control outbreaks, counter the spread of the disease and ultimately reduce the potential for outbreaks in the United States," the letter reads.
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The letter, which was only circulated among Senate Democrats, also encourages federal agencies to work with state and local health departments to identify and monitor any Zika infections.
There are three confirmed cases of the virus in Illinois, all from people who had recently traveled to countries affected by the outbreak. Durbin said his concern isn't with an imminent outbreak in the continental United States.
"The fear is Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands will be the next place, and that's where we ought to focus our resources now to stop the transmission," Durbin said.
The virus doesn’t present symptoms in most people, with the Centers for Disease Control estimating only 1 in 5 cases result in mild, flu-like symptoms. It’s mainly a health concern for pregnant women, as the virus can cause birth defects like unusually small heads and brain damage in newborns.
The CDC has recommended pregnant women not travel to Zika-affected countries, such as Brazil.
The advice from Illinois Department of Public Health director Dr. Nirav Shah is for pregnant women to heed CDC warnings.
"Since this is a time of year when people travel to warmer climates and countries where Zika virus is found, we are urging residents, especially pregnant women, to take preventive measures when traveling in affected countries and check health travel advisories,” Shah said in a statement.
While the CDC has found some evidence it can be spread through sexual activity, the virus is largely spread by a type of mosquitoes that are not native to Illinois, but can be found along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
The U.S. Senate's health committee, which counts among its members U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), is scheduled to discuss the response to the Zika virus in a hearing on Feb. 24.