Pregnant women and those planning to become pregnant should avoid traveling to 14 tropical countries and territories in Central and South America and the Caribbean, where there is a rapidly escalating outbreak of the mosquito-borne zika virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention in an advisory issued Jan. 15.

The CDC advisory covers Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

Although illness due to the zika virus tends to be mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week, research has indicated a correlation between the virus and a skyrocketing number of babies born with microcephaly and other poor outcomes in Brazil. The Brazilian Ministry of Health has declared a national health emergency (link in Portuguese) as officials there fear the numbers of cases will go higher.

“Until more is known, and out of an abundance of caution, CDC recommends special precautions for pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant,” the CDC said in a statement. Specifically, women at any trimester of pregnancy should cancel or postpone travel to the areas covered by the advisory. Any pregnant women who must travel should consult with a physician prior to travel and take great care to avoid mosquito bites. The advice should be observed by women who are thinking of becoming pregnant, according to the CDC.

The government of Canada has issued a similar travel warning for pregnant women.

CDC warns that because the mosquitoes of the Aedes aegypti species that spread zika virus are found worldwide, further outbreaks are likely in other countries. Indeed, zika virus transmission has been seen in several countries in Africa and Asia.

In December 2015, Puerto Rico reported its first confirmed zika virus case. Although zika has not been reported in the continental United States, the CDC reports there have been infected travelers returning from affected countries.

Advice for those who must travel to areas where zika virus transmission has been documented can be found on the CDC website.

wmcknight@frontlinemedcom.com

On Twitter @whitneymcknight

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