The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week issued an alert advising pregnant women to avoid traveling to Brazil and several other countries in the Americas where Zika outbreaks have occurred.
The Zika virus usually only causes mild symptoms including fever, rash, joint pain and eye redness.
Pregnant women and those who are thinking about becoming pregnant "who must travel to one of these areas should talk with their doctor first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during their trip", said Lyle Petersen, MD, MPH, the director of the CDC's Division of Vector-Borne Diseases. As a response, Brazilian health officials delivered a stern warning to Brazilian couples to delay pregnancy as cases of infants born with damaged brains were reportedly caused by the mosquito-borne virus.
At least one species of mosquito common in Florida and the Gulf Coast, Aedes aegypti, can spread Zika, but it's not known whether other mosquitoes ranging farther north in the country can also transmit the virus. These symptoms normally last for 2-7 days.
There have also been cases in Cabo Verde in Africa and in Cambodia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia and sporadic imported cases in Europe, Canada and the United States from Central and South America.
The type of mosquitoes that can carry the virus are found in the southwestern US. Over 3,500 cases of microcephaly have been reported in Brazil and 46 babies have died. These mosquitoes are found throughout tropical regions of the world and are the same mosquitoes that spread dengue and Chikungunya viruses. The first US case was confirmed in Texas this month in a traveler who returned from El Salvador.
- 80 percent of people who are infected with Zika virus don't have symptoms.
While there is no treatment for microcephaly, early detection might offer some women the option of terminating their pregnancies or to have specialists on hand at delivery, said Dr. Laura Riley, president of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, who has been working with the CDC on the guidelines. So it behooves the scientists to do the needful right away and contain the virus before it spreads globally.
The Illinois Department of Public Health is alerting the public to the potential of contracting Zika virus while traveling overseas. Researchers at the Pasteur Institute in Dakar, Senegal are in Brazil to train local researchers to combat the Zika virus epidemic.