BC-WI--Zika Virus-Wisconsin, 2nd Ld-Writethru,365
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- State health officials say people are unlikely to contract the Zika virus from mosquitoes in Wisconsin this summer, but they can't rule it out.
The mosquitoes most likely to carry Zika generally are found far to the south. But the estimated range of one species reaches as far north as southern Wisconsin, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
"The risk of acquiring Zika from a mosquito bite in Wisconsin is really not a concern at this point," said Karen McKeown, a health officer for the state Department of Health Services. "But we encourage people to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites."
U.S. health officials said last week there is no longer any doubt the Zika virus causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads and other severe brain defects.
The onset of warmer weather has authorities advising people concerned about Zika to take steps to avoid mosquitoes and ticks known to be carry other diseases, such as West Nile virus and Lyme disease.
So far, Wisconsin is among a handful of states that have not reported a case of Zika in someone who traveled to affected countries in Latin America or the Caribbean. All the states that border Wisconsin have had Zika cases associated with travel, including 10 cases in Illinois and 12 in Minnesota. But none of the hundreds of samples tested from Wisconsin travelers has been positive.
"It seems almost inevitable that we will have a travel-related case," McKeown said.
The mosquitoes most likely to carry Zika are not found in the Upper Midwest, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's estimate of their range. But another species -- Asian tiger mosquitoes -- is thought to live in parts of southern Wisconsin and southern Minnesota, along with all of Iowa and Illinois.
However, the chance that those mosquitoes will transmit the virus to people in Wisconsin this year seems slim, said Susan Paskewitz, a University of Wisconsin-Madison entomologist.
"It's probably pretty close to zero; it might even be zero," she said. "I wouldn't say that if we were Florida."
Paskewitz and others plan to set up traps for Asian tiger mosquitoes in southern Wisconsin counties this summer.