The Zika Virus has hit the United States and is causing concern amongst health care workers worldwide.
Linked to a brain disorder called microcephaly in babies, the virus leaves babies with abnormally small heads, resulting in developmental issues and, in some cases, death.
According to Reuters, the mosquito-borne virus has harmed thousands of babies born in Brazil, leading health care workers to recommend that women refrain from getting pregnant.
According to the World Health Organization, it is expected that the virus will spread to all but two countries in North, Central, and South America.
— Newsweek (@Newsweek) January 27, 2016
Spread by the Aedes mosquitoes, which can be found throughout these regions, the virus is particularly potent because the “population of the Americas had not previously been exposed to Zika and therefore lacks immunity,” according to a WHO statement released Sunday.
First seen last May, the virus has been reported in 21 countries and territories in the Americas.
WHO recommends measures to prevent mosquitoes from breeding, including the elimination of standing water, as well as measures to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has expanded a recent travel advisory because of the dangers of the virus. According to the advisory, pregnant women are warned 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 recommends that pregnant women who have traveled to these destinations undergo screening for the virus.
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) January 27, 2016
Cases of the neurological disorder Guillain-Barre syndrome have also been reported in patients with probable Zika virus infection in Brazil and French Polynesia, although more study is needed to confirm the link, says the CDC.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is also urging pregnant women and those planning a pregnancy to follow Zika virus travel and health guidelines recently issued by the CDC, according to ACOG President Mark DeFrancsco, as reported by MedicineNet.com.
“Travel to regions with ongoing Zika virus outbreaks is not recommended for women who are pregnant or women who are considering pregnancy.”
Currently, there is no vaccine or treatment for Zika, and symptoms may include a sudden fever or rash, but there may be no symptoms to speak of. Adult symptoms may be mild, so the CDC recommends that doctors screen their patients thoroughly, especially if they have traveled to any of the danger zones.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 27, 2016
If tests reveal signs of the Zika virus, the CDC recommends ultrasounds to monitor the fetus’ development. The agency also recommends that pregnant women infected consult an infectious disease or a maternal-fetal specialist with expertise in risky pregnancy management.
According to DeFrancesco, doctors are still rather baffled by the virus and are working diligently to find measures to protect babies.
“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.”
— ABC News (@ABC) January 26, 2016
DeFrancesco said since there is no treatment for Zika virus at this time, “women should be counseled about all options available to them.”
“When possible, delivery at a center with the appropriate levels of neonatal expertise may be warranted.”
(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)