CDC issues travel alert to 8 new locations because of Zika virus

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Friday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added the following destinations to the Zika virus travel alerts:  Barbados, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guadeloupe, Saint Martin, Guyana, Cape Verde, and Samoa. 

On Jan. 15, the CDC issued a travel alert (Level 2-Practice Enhanced Precautions) for people traveling to regions and certain countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing: the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory; Brazil; Colombia; El Salvador; French Guiana; Guatemala; Haiti; Honduras; Martinique; Mexico; Panama; Paraguay; Suriname; and Venezuela.  Specific areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing are often difficult to determine and are likely to continue to change over time.

Most recently, imported cases have been reported in Florida, one in Hillsborough county and two in Miami-Dade.  All traveled in the month of December to countries in South America where they contracted the virus. 

The Zika virus is transmitted through mosquito bites, although there is some evidence of sexual transmission and theoretical spread through blood transfusions or organs.  Only one in five people become symptomatic with fever, joint pain, rash and red eyes.  Other commonly reported symptoms include muscle pain, headache, and pain behind the eyes.  Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a condition that can cause weakness or paralysis, has been reported in patients with probable Zika virus infection in French Polynesia and Brazil.

Although more study must be done, the Zika virus has been linked to a serious birth defect, microcephaly, a condition where the size of the head is much smaller than other babies of the same age or gestation. Cases of microcephaly have risen twenty fold in Brazil since the outbreak began, affecting 3500 babies. The virus has been detected in the tissue of miscarried fetuses, as well as two babies that died within 24 hours of birth. In another country, it was found in the amniotic fluid of two fetuses with microcephaly. 

Even though there are no reported cases in Jamaica, their health minister is also advising women to delay plans to become pregnant for the next six to 12 months. 

The CDC recommends that pregnant women in any trimester should consider postponing travel to the areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Pregnant women who must travel to one of these areas should talk to their doctor or other healthcare professional first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip.

Women trying to become pregnant should consult with their healthcare professional before traveling to these areas and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the trip.  The CDC is also asking all health care providers to question all pregnant women about travel to the affected countries so they can be appropriately screened.