As of Tuesday, January 26, 2016, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention added two more destinations to the list of places pregnant women may want to avoid due to the potential of infection with the Zika virus, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic.
The mosquito-born Zika virus is linked to a brain disorder called microcephaly. A disease where babies are born with abnormally small heads that results in developmental issues and in some cases death.
The CDC has advised pregnant women to avoid traveling to Bolivia, Brazil, Cape Verde, Columbia, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Martin, Suriname, Samoa, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico. They also are advising screening for women who have traveled to these regions while pregnant.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that the Zika virus could likely spread to all but two countries in North, Central and South America. It is believed that the Aedes mosquito, the mosquitoes responsible for spreading the virus, is present in all regions except Canada and continental Chile.
There is no vaccine or treatment for Zika, but symptoms are usually mild in healthy adults. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is recommending that pregnant women who have traveled to these areas receive screening for the virus. If test results show signs of the infection, women are advised to monitor the fetus with routine ultrasounds and seek a consultation with an infectious disease specialists with expertise in pregnancy management.
According to ACOG President Dr. Mark DeFrancesco, “there is much that we do not yet know about the Zika virus and its effects during pregnancy, for example, whether pregnant women are of greater risk of infection than non-pregnant individuals. However, because of the associated risk of microcephaly, avoiding exposure to the virus is best. That’s why pregnant women and women who are considering pregnancy should delay planned travel to areas where Zika virus outbreaks are ongoing.”
Sources: World Health Organization, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Featured photo, courtesy of Pixabay, is of the Tiger mosquito found in SE Asia and is also known to carry the Zika virus