Scientists at the Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton have been busy doing research on the emerging Zika virus since before the World Health Organization recently declared it an emergency.

Associate Director for Scientific Management at RML, Marshall Bloom, said the facility has been called upon to begin studying the virus which is in the same family as other viruses already under study.

"RML has had a superb program of study on similar flaviviruses since about 2002, although we have not yet directly studied the Zika virus," Bloom said. "One thing I can tell your listeners, is that I've been in contact with Greg Johnson, an entomologist at Montana State University in Bozeman, and he assures me that Montana does not have the two species of mosquitoes that transmit the Zika virus."

Bloom said the Zika virus causes relatively mild symptoms to most patients.

"They have a fever, they have joint pain and they may have red eyes, but what they're experiencing in Latin America is that there is an association with some very serious, and frankly disastrous birth defects in infants born to mothers who have had the Zika virus infection.This virus is spread almost exclusively through the bite of a mosquito. However, we have heard from Dallas in the past few days, in what are relatively rare occasions, sexual partners of those infected the with virus may be able to transmit that to an uninfected partner."

Bloom singled out two physicians who have been doing exception work on the flaviviruses at RML.

"We have two very talented investigators, one is Dr. Sonya Best, and the other is Dr. Karin Peterson. They're very experienced in studying flaviviruses and other viruses spread by mosquitoes. They will be using some of the considerable expertise they have gleaned in the study of the Zika virus."

In a previous interview with an epidemiologist with the Montana Department of Health and Human Services, KGVO News learned that one individual in northwest Montana had been suspected of having the Zika virus, but no further information has been released.