As worries of Zika virus in the western hemisphere continue and the danger it poses to the unborn child of pregnant women, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has added countries where the disease is at outbreak levels and to where it says pregnant woman should not travel to.
The regions added to the Level 2 travel alert are Barbados, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guadeloupe, Saint Martin, Guyana, Cape Verde, and Samoa. Continuing to be included are the original regions of Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
The original travel warning was issued Jan. 15 as a Level 2 Alert, which recommends that those traveling to the regions practice enhanced precautions to avoid the bite of infected mosquitoes. As a further step, the CDC also recommended that any woman who is pregnant not travel to the region as the Zika virus poses a danger to their unborn child.
Though the virus in most cases only causes minor illness in individuals, the affect on an unborn child can be devastating. Zika can cause miscarriage and for those babies that survive to full term, there is a risk of the condition microcephaly. This conditions exists when the baby’s head and brain are smaller than would normally be expected. Many times the child will not survive but those that do are faced with lifelong disability.
Zika virus is carried by infected Aedes mosquitoes which can also transmit the diseases Dengue and chikungunya. Aedes mosquitoes tend to be very active in the daytime hours, indoors and out, living in populated areas and preferring humans for their blood meal.
Studies are currently underway by the CDC along with the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization to determine at which trimester unborn children are most at risk. But due to the lack of credible research to determine when this window of vulnerability exists, the CDC issued the “do not travel” warning to women at any stage of pregnancy.
At this time there is no vaccine against Zika virus nor is there any reliable form of treatment.
Information provided by the CDC states that those infected can experience symptom including fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes. Other symptoms that are commonly reported are muscle pain, headache and pain behind the eyes.
As uncomfortable as the illness can be, it rarely reaches the point where hospital care is required and fatality from it is low. Symptoms from the disease can last from several days to one week, the CDC reports.
Of further concern for women who travel to the areas where there may be an outbreak of Zika virus, is the fact that the illness may not manifest itself until after they return home. For this reason, there is also concern for women who may be trying to become pregnant while in the areas or within a short time of leaving an area experiencing an outbreak.
The incubation period after exposure before the onset of symptoms can be from 3 to 12 days. With the concern that the virus can cause miscarriages and microcephaly at any point during a pregnancy, the CDC is recommending that those who travel to the areas listed should self monitor for symptoms of Zika. If there is any concern or someone begins to experience symptoms of Zika virus after being in the countries where the outbreak is active, they should contact their doctors for further evaluation.
Information on the Zika virus outbreak and other travel health issues is updated daily at the Travel Health Notices page on the CDC website.
More information on Zika virus is available at the CDC Zika webpage. For information on protection from biting insects the CDC has a comprehensive section on the subject.
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