If you’re pregnant, or planning to be in the near future, you need to familiarize yourself with the recent Zika virus outbreak right now.
Confirmed cases of the mosquito-borne virus have been discovered in over 16 countries, including the United States. Experts warn that the virus will continue to spread to the U.S. and it poses significant health threats to pregnant women and their unborn children living in and traveling to areas with high infection rates.
On Friday, the CDC issued updated travel alerts warning pregnant women to avoid traveling to over a dozen countries with confirmed infections, including Brazil, where officials have declared an emergency, reports The Washington Post. There the Zika virus has been linked to thousands of cases of microcephaly, which is a rare condition that causes severe brain damage in newborns and abnormally small heads. The risk is so severe, some countries have asked women to avoid getting pregnant for up to two years—El Salvador requested women wait until 2018 to get pregnant. Jamaica and Ecuador have made similar requests to their populations.
The CDC is urging women to consider postponing travel plans to 21 infected countries and the recent travel alerts list includes popular spring vacation hotspots Dominican Republic, Barbados and Mexico.
Experts believe the virus will spread to all parts of the world where the Aedes mosquito lives, and fast, reports The Washington Post.
Here’s what you need to now about the Zika Virus right now:
The Virus Spreads Through Mosquitos Bites, Not Human-To-Human Contact
According to the CDC, travelers visiting areas where cases of Zika virus infection have been confirmed are at risk of being infected with the virus. The mosquitoes that spread Zika are aggressive daytime biters, prefer to bite people, and live indoors and outdoors near people.
There Is No Current Vaccine
Although the virus is not typically fatal, and symptoms in adults eventually subside, there is no known cure for Zika virus at this time.
There Are Already Confirmed Cases In The U.S
The Washington Post is reporting that there have been confirmed cases of the Zika virus in five states in the U.S— Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, Texas and Hawaii—all of which occurred after patients traveled to countries with known infections.
Travel Precautions Are Recommended
As of today, the CDC has issued official Level 2 (Practice Enhanced Precautions) travel warnings for Barbados, Dominican Republic, U.S. Virgin Islands, Saint Martin, Puerto Rico, Martinique, Haiti, Guadeloupe, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela and certain countries in Central America. See the full list here.
How to Be More Cautious When Traveling To Affected Areas
The CDC suggests avoiding over-exposed skin, wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, using all EPA-registered insect repellants containing DEET and using clothing and gear treated with permethrn.
Global Officials Are Keeping A Close Eye On The Virus
Medical and government officials are closely monitoring the spread of the virus as they attempt to proactively create a cure.
Does news of the Zika virus make you weary of traveling to any of the affected areas?