Zika virus warning

This item appears on page 16 of the March 2016 issue.

With an emphasis for women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant, the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention have issued a travel warning about the prevalence of the zika virus in the following nations and territories: Cape Verde, Samoa, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Barbados, St. Martin, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, French Guiana, Suriname, Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay.
Zika virus has symptoms similar to those of dengue — fever, rash, headache and joint pain — and is carried by the same vector, the Aedes aegypti mosquito. However, it is estimated that up to 80% of infected individuals show no symptoms.
Zika is of special concern due to a possible correlation between infection in pregnant women and the incidence of microcephaly, or abnormally small heads, in fetuses. Since Brazil’s recent outbreak of zika in October 2015, more than 4,000 babies have been born with suspected microcephaly. Medical investigations have determined that, of more than 700 babies tested as of press time, 270 cases were found to be microcephalic.
In all of 2014, according to the World Health Ogranization, fewer than 150 babies born with microcephaly were reported in Brazil. However, until late 2015, Brazilian doctors were not required to report cases of microcephaly in babies in their care. A CDC epidemiologist noted that, with about three million births a year, 150 cases of microcephaly would seem to be an underreporting. In comparison, of the approximately four million babies born each year in the US, about 2,500 are confirmed to have microcephaly.