Zika Virus Poses Serious Threat To Pregnant Women, CDC Issues Travel Advisory

A Hawaii newborn baby born with an abnormally small head this week has been confirmed to have microcephaly and had been infected with the Zika virus. It is thought to be the first cases of its kind reported in the United States. The infant’s mother visited Brazil in May 2015 and likely contracted the virus there. In the past four months, microcephaly cases in Brazil have skyrocketed to 3,500 and 46 babies died; in comparison, there were only 147 cases in total in 2014.

Global travel and climate change are the primary reason the Zika virus is spreading from the narrow equatorial belt from Africa to Asia to areas in South and Central Americas and the Caribbean where it is now considered pandemic.

Humans are the main vector of this virus, which has reached epidemic proportions in Brazil when it was detected in late 2015.

Zika virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of infected Aedes species mosquito, which is active in the daytime. There is currently no treatment or vaccine against Zika.


Aedes aegypti mosquito. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Four in five people who catch the virus may have no symptoms, and the illness is considered to be like a mild form of dengue fever.

Although it causes unusual rashes, fever and back pain in adults that evince symptoms, the complications that may result from the virus are still being learned. However, it poses a serious risk to pregnant women as there is concern the virus increases the risk for microcephaly, a neurological condition that causes babies to be born with smaller heads and significant brain damage.


Rash caused by Zika virus

Out of abundance of caution, the CDC advised pregnant women last week to put off travel to more than a dozen Central American, South American and Caribbean countries, including Puerto Rico, where the virus is currently spreading.

As the virus is transmitted by daytime-active mosquitoes, it is difficult to combat. Travelers in areas where the virus is spreading are strongly urged to protect themselves with long-sleeved shirts and pants, and use EPA-registered repellants (containing DEET).

Share this important health information with your friends who like to travel, so they can be prepared!

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