Zika Virus Travel Broadened for Pregnant Women
U.S. agency says those at risk should avoid U.S. Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic
By Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, Jan. 26, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday added two more destinations -- the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic -- to the list of places that pregnant women may want to avoid due to potential infection with the Zika virus.
Since last May, 23 countries and territories in the Americas have reported cases of mosquito-borne Zika, which is linked to a brain disorder called microcephaly. Babies with the condition have abnormally small heads, resulting in developmental issues and, in some cases, death.
Already, the CDC had advised pregnant women to avoid trips to Bolivia, Brazil, Cape Verde, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Martin, Suriname, Samoa, Venezuela and Puerto Rico. The agency also recommended screening for women who have recently traveled to these places while pregnant.
On Sunday, the World Health Organization warned that the Zika virus, which has harmed thousands of babies born in Brazil, will likely spread to all but two countries in North, Central and South America.
Transmission is probable because the Aedes mosquitoes, which spread the virus, populate the entire region except for Canada and continental Chile. Also, the "population of the Americas had not previously been exposed to Zika and therefore lacks immunity," according to a WHO statement released Sunday.
The CDC has also said that cases of the neurological disorder Guillain-Barre syndrome have been reported in patients with probable Zika virus infection in Brazil and French Polynesia, although more study is needed to confirm the link.
Meanwhile, organizers of the Summer Olympics 2016 in Brazil said they'll be on high alert to prevent Zika transmission.
According to the Associated Press, the committee plans daily inspections of the Olympic and Paralympic sites to seek out stagnant waters where Zika-spreading mosquitoes could breed. The games are scheduled for Aug. 5-21.
"Rio 2016 will continue to monitor the issue closely and follow guidance from the Brazilian Ministry of Health," the committee said in a statement.