MosquitoA disease that’s quickly spread to more than 20 countries in Central and South America is grabbing a lot of headlines this week, but a top state health official says Iowans are at a very low risk.

The Zika virus is spread by mosquitoes. Doctor Patty Quinlisk, medical director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, says projections say Zika may infect four-million people over the next year.

“I don’t know that we need to be concerned about it if we stay in Iowa,” Dr. Quinlisk says. “The real issue for Iowans is if we travel to some of these countries where the Zika virus is found, especially for a woman who’s pregnant or might become pregnant.”

The disease is linked to an increase in birth defects in Brazil. Common symptoms of Zika virus include: fever, rash, joint pain and red, itchy eyes. Quinlisk says it’s believed only a certain type of mosquito is responsible for spreading the virus and the insect has been in Iowa before, but not often.

“When we look at the mosquitoes that we know right now could carry Zika virus, there is one species which very, very, very rarely will hit our southern border,” Quinlisk says. “I think there’s been four found in the last 40 years of testing mosquitoes in Iowa of that particular species.”

A person can only catch the virus from a mosquito. It isn’t spread from person to person. The CDC has issued a travel alert for 21 nations due to Zika.

(Thanks to Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City, for contributing to this report.)