An official travel warning released by U.S. officials at the Center for Disease Control has listed fourteen countries that are a threat to the health of pregnant women. The disease in question is called the Zika Virus, and it is spread to people by mosquitoes of the Aedes species. According to the CDC, pregnant women need to steer clear, but women hoping to get pregnant are just as vulnerable to the disease.
The travel warning was brought on by a string of outbreaks of the Zika Virus in Brazil. The unfortunate disease reportedly causes babies to be born with very small heads which leads to a brain disorder. In some cases, when expectant mothers are exposed to the Zika Virus, their newborns could have symptoms of brain dysfunction, which sometimes results in death.
Brazil is only one of the forbidden Caribbean and South American countries for pregnant women. Also on the list are Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico, according to U.S. News and World Report. These areas appear to be a hotbed for the virus because of the weather patterns, which allow for the Aedes species of mosquito to thrive and spread disease. Here’s how is happens.
The mosquitoes breed in warm climates inside bodies of water. It is common to find groups of Aedes mosquitoes in swimming pools and even in puddles of water and bottle caps. In the United States, these Zika Virus spreading insects exist only in places like Florida and Hawaii, where the climate allows them to reproduce in massive numbers. Still, these mosquitoes have also been spotting as far north as Chicago, according to the New York Times and apparently pose a huge threat. Recently, the director of the CDC’s Infectious Borne Diseases Division, Dr. Lyle Petersen, spoke on the danger of the Zika Virus, specifically for pregnant women.
“We believe this is a fairly serious problem. The virus is spreading fairly rapidly throughout the Americas and a large percentage of the population may become infected. Because of the growing evidence that there is a link between Zika virus and microcephaly, we thought it was very important to warn people as soon as possible.”
The Zika Virus is spreading rapidly, and even without traveling, some expectant mothers still won’t be safe. The disease statistics show that the virus is something completely different than it used to be. In the period between 2007-2014, only 14 cases of the Zika Virus were reported. Now, in just one year’s time, between 2015 and 2016, there have already been 12 cases reported. How bad will it get? Based on a statement from Petersen, only time will tell.
“It’s a dynamic situation and we are just going to have to wait and see how it all plays out. It’s really impossible for us to speculate what will happen.”
With the Zika Virus being almost identical to the West Nile Virus and yellow fever, it is an international health concern. Despite the severity of the disease, the World Health Organization only has Brazil and Colombia listed as hot spots for contracting the virus. The CDC, however, warns strongly in the press released which the agency posted on Friday.
“CDC scientists tested samples provided by Brazilian health authorities from two pregnancies that ended in miscarriage and from two infants with diagnosed microcephaly who died shortly after birth. For the two full-term infants, tests showed that Zika virus was present in the brain. Genetic sequence analysis showed that the virus in the four cases was the same as the Zika virus strain currently circulating in Brazil. All four mothers reported having experienced a fever and rash illness consistent with Zika virus disease (Zika) during their pregnancies.”
[Feature image via Education Images/Getty Images]