CDC Expands Zika Virus Travel Alert

- At a time of year many of us would love to hop on a plane and head south to escape the winter weather, the CDC is urging pregnant women to put off travel to 22 destinations, most in Central and South America and the Caribbean.

Friday, the CDC added 8 destinations to its Zika virus travel alerts: Barbados, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guadeloupe, Saint Martin, Guyana, Cape Verde and Samoa. 

A week earlier, on January 15, 2015, the agency urged pregnant women to delay travel to areas reporting Zika virus transmission.  Those countries and territories include Puerto Rico, Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname and Venezuela.

Spread by mosquitoes, Zika virus been linked to surge in babies born in Brazil with smaller than normal heads, a rare condition known as microcephaly.  The birth defects can cause developmental delays and lifelong intellectual disability.

The CDC says the Aedes mosquitoes that spread the Zika, chikungunya and dengue viruses are aggressive daytime bites and prefer to bite people rather than animals.  They live both indoors and outdoors. 

About 80% of people infected with Zika virus are asymptomatic.

When there are symptoms, the most common are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (or red eyes).   The symptoms typically begin 2 to 7 days after a person is bitten by an infected mosquito.

There is no vaccine or antiviral medicine available for Zika virus.  And, because of the suspected links between the virus and severe birth defects, the CDC is urging pregnant women to take precautions.

The CDC recommends pregnant women consider postponing travel to the areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.  If you must travel to these areas, or you are trying to become pregnant and are planning travel, the agency says talk to your healthcare provider first and strictly follow steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

You can find tips on how to protect yourself from mosquito bites at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/avoid-bug-bites.

 


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