More pregnant women in US diagnosed with Zika virus


A 24-year-old man travelling from Thailand has been confirmed as Taiwan's first case of the Zika virus, reported the Ministry of Health and Welfare yesterday.

The travel alert applies to Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela and Puerto Rico. But for pregnant women, the virus can be transmitted to the foetus, triggering brain damage like microcephaly in which the brain and skull are abnormally small.

Pregnant women and those who are thinking about becoming pregnant "who must travel to one of these areas should talk with their doctor first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during their trip", said Lyle Petersen, MD, MPH, the director of the CDC's Division of Vector-Borne Diseases. However, Brazil is now reporting a high number of Zika infections, with the bug affecting newborn babies.

Now, two pregnant women in the continental US have tested positive for Zika virus, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health on Tuesday.

Because no medication or vaccine is available, treatment focuses on easing symptoms.

The disease is not contagious and for most people who catch it, it will only last a few days.

In the Colombian port city of Barranquilla, home to Latin America's largest Carnival outside Brazil, health authorities have been educating residents how to identify symptoms and urging women to put off pregnancies for at least six months until the worst of the epidemic passes.

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Many people who contract the Zika virus never display any symptoms while others may present with a fever or rash.

The virus has been a problem in tropical settings in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands for years, but it's suspected link to birth defects was found late last year.

In Hawaii, one of the women with a confirmed Zika case had a baby birth with the birth defect. The agency warned all travelers to these areas to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

According to the Pan American Health Organization, the virus will likely spread to all 33 Latin American and Caribbean countries as well as the southern part of the United States.

Last week, Health Minister Marcelo Castro said a new testing kit was being developed to identify quickly the presence of either of the three viruses. So far, they say, there is no evidence that the virus has begun to spread locally in the US.