Zika virus outbreak in Latin America, Caribbean prompts US travel alert

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United States health officials have issued a travel warning for 14 countries and territories in the Caribbean and Latin America where infection with Zika, a mosquito-borne virus, is a risk.

mosquitoAccording to a report published by ABC News, the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in particular cautioned pregnant women not to travel to those areas, as Zika has been linked to serious birth defects.

The travel alert applies to Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and the US Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. It also includes advice that women who are trying to become pregnant should consult with their doctor before travelling to those areas.

Guyana’s Minister of Health, Dr. George Norton had reported to the National Assembly on Thursday that this country has found one confirmed case of Zika so far, but Guyana was not included on the travel alert list issued by the U.S.

What is Zika virus?

  • Zika virus is spread through mosquito bites
  • Common symptoms include fever, rashes, joint pain and conjunctivitis
  • Outbreaks have occurred in Africa, South-East Asia, the Pacific and the Americas
  • There is no vaccine or medicine to treat the virus

Source: Centres for Disease Control and Prevention

According to the ABC news report, Dr Lyle Peterson, director of CDC’s division of vector-borne diseases, said the agency has confirmed that Zika virus was present in samples provided by Brazilian health authorities from two pregnancies that ended in miscarriage and from two infants with diagnosed microcephaly, who died shortly after birth.

Microcephaly is a birth defect where a baby’s head is abnormally small and brain development is incomplete.

Genetic analysis showed that the virus in the four cases was the same as the Zika virus strain currently circulating in Brazil.

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