People, Travel

Zika Virus Epidemic Prompts Global Travel Warning

Zika Virus Epidemic Prompts Global Travel WarningZika Virus Epidemic Prompts Global Travel Warning

Outbreaks of Zika virus in over 20 countries have prompted health officials across the world to issue travel warnings.

The Zika virus, which is spreading through the Caribbean and Latin America, is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is also known to carry the dengue, yellow fever and Chikungunya viruses.

On Friday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended its travel warning to Barbados, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Cape Verde, Samoa and the island of Saint Martin, Reuters reported.

Earlier, the CDC had issued an advisory against travel to Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and the US Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

Britain’s National Travel Health Network and Centre advised expectant mothers to reconsider travel to areas where Zika virus outbreaks are currently reported, according to the UK television broadcaster Channel 4.

The public health authorities in El Salvador are advising women in the country to put off pregnancies for the next two years to avoid the risk of giving birth to malformed babies. New Zealand health officials issued a similar warning.

Health experts are unsure why the virus — detected in Africa in 1947 but unknown in the Americas until last year — is spreading so rapidly in Brazil and neighboring countries.

There is no vaccine or treatment for Zika, which causes mild fevers and rashes. An estimated 80% of those infected show no symptoms at all.

Researchers in Brazil said on Wednesday they had found new evidence linking the virus to increasing incidence of microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with unusually small heads.

In Brazil alone nearly 4000 babies have been born with it since October. It has forced health officials in Central America to urge women not to get pregnant for two years, or until the outbreak is under control, 3News reported.

US authorities confirmed on Saturday the birth of a baby with a small head in Hawaii to a mother who had been infected with the Zika virus while visiting Brazil.