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New Zika Virus Warning: Are You at Risk?

New Zika Virus Warning: Are You at Risk?
March 28
13:01 2016

With President Obama in Cuba for his historic visit last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued a new Zika Virus warning for travelers to the island nation.

The worrying epidemic, which has been linked to a wide range of birth defects and neurological disorders, is transmitted primarily by infected mosquitoes, but can also be spread sexually.

While most people infected with Zika experience only mild symptoms, the virus is suspected in microcephaly, a serious birth defect in which children are born with undersize heads and underdeveloped brains, as well as Guillain-Barré, a rare neurological syndrome that can cause muscle weakness and paralysis.

Should People in the U.S. Be Scared?

So far, nearly all cases in the continental United States have been limited to infected travelers who brought the virus back home from Latin America or other regions.

The CDC recommends that pregnant women avoid travel to Cuba, as well as several other countries that have been hit hard by the virus, including the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Equador, and Costa Rica.

And lest you think that we’re safe here in the U.S.:

Based on the spread of previous outbreaks, the CDC estimates that 700,000 people in U.S.-held Puerto Rico – about one in five residents – could be infected by the end of this year.

And with dozens of flights moving daily between San Juan and Orlando, Washington, New York and other major cities on the mainland, doctors in the U.S. are becoming increasingly concerned.

What’s more, with Cuba a scant 90 miles off the southern coast of the U.S., officials and medical professionals are gearing up for an inevitable spread beginning in the southern states.

What You Can Do

Obviously, avoiding travel to the countries hit hardest by the virus is important, especially for pregnant women.

For people living in those countries or for whom travel is unavoidable, take steps to prevent contact with mosquitoes, and use condoms or abstain from sex during your visit.

For those living in mosquito prone areas of the U.S. mainland, we recommend taking a cue from the CDC and the CDC Foundation in their response to the outbreak in Puerto Rico by assembling your own Zika Prevention Kits, starting with mosquito repellant, products that kill mosquito larvae, and condoms.

For more information and regularly updated statistics, visit http://www.cdc.gov/zika/.

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