The race is on for a vaccine for the Zika virus after officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) warned Monday that the mosquito-borne virus is likely to spread to all countries in the Americas except for Canada and Chile.

While 80 percent of the population will experience little to no effect from the bite of an infected mosquito, Zika transmission has been linked to a condition called microcephaly, which shrinks the heads and brains of fetuses. In Brazil, thousands of babies have been born with this condition.

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Now, as the virus moves north into Central America and Mexico, the alarm is sounding here in the United States.

Brazil’s 3,893 suspected cases of microcephaly are 30 times higher than in any year since 2010, said the WHO. The state of Pernambuco is one of the worst-hit areas. Travel advisories are in effect for women who may be pregnant, or for couples even considering conception.

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The Sao Paulo-based Butantan Institute is currently leading the research charge on prevention measures for Zika, Reuters has reported. Company officials last week said they planned to develop a vaccine “in record time.” Still, record time on a new vaccine could be years away.

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Dr. Salih Yasin, director of obstetrics at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida, told LifeZette that at this time, because there is no known treatment, people need to be vigilant and protect themselves from mosquito bites.

“People have to be on the lookout. They should not be shy about asking questions. At the same time, we don’t want to create a phobia or an unfounded fear, especially among people who do not have any signs or symptoms of the disease,” said Dr. Yasin.

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Many are looking to Yasin’s team right now for insight, as Miami is one of the areas Zika has been confirmed in the U.S.

The Florida Department of Health has confirmed three travel-associated cases of the virus in the Sunshine State, two of them in Miami-Dade County. Both residents had traveled to Colombia in December. The third individual afflicted is a Hillsborough County resident who traveled to Venezuela in December. 

Other cases have been confirmed in Illinois and Texas, and New York officials reported three suspected cases this past week as well. 

Yasin also deals with high-risk pregnancies and infectious disease. He is keeping a close eye on any new developments connected to Zika. 

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“We cannot tell how many people, of those who get affected, really get the disease, or how many give it to (their) babies. Many of those things we don’t know. So we have to be very cautious in interpreting data. At the same time, as time passes, one should be able to get that information in the hope of preventing transmission or at least recognizing it,” Yasin told LifeZette.

The most common symptoms of Zika virus are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild, with symptoms lasting from several days to a week.

“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,” Dr. Nirav. D. Shah, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said in a news release.

The CDC’s alert also emphasizes that women who are trying to get pregnant should talk to their doctors before traveling.

“We need to follow the guidelines,” Yasin said. “We need to follow the mothers and the babies and collect that information so we can get better at it and prevent that effect from spreading.”

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The Zika virus, for the record, isn’t the only mosquito-borne illness to watch for. Dengue, West Nile, and most recently Chikungunya have all seen an increase in reach and diagnosis. There are no vaccines or treatments available for any of them.

Anthony Fauci and David Morens of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases wrote this past week in the New England Journal of Medicine: “Zika is still a pandemic in progress, and many important questions about it remain …  We clearly need to up our game with broad and integrated research that expands understanding of the complex ecosystems in which agents of future pandemics are aggressively evolving.”

This article has been updated.