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CDC Issues Travel Warnings for 14 Latin American, Caribbean Nations Exposed to Zika Virus

First Posted: Jan 18, 2016 07:12 AM EST
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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recently issued a travel warning for 14 Latin American nations and Caribbean territories that have exposed to Zika virus, a mosquito-borne virus connected to the increasing rate of birth defects in Brazil. The alert was issued late Friday and it includes Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela and Puerto Rico.

Due to the alarming increase in cases of infants born with brain damage linked to Zika virus, U.S. health officials have warned pregnant women to postpone travel to the aforementioned areas. While those who want to become pregnant, experts have advised to consult their doctors first before embarking on any trip to Latin America and the Caribbean, U.S. & World Report News Health noted.  

"We believe this is a fairly serious problem," CDC's Division of Vector Borne Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Lyle Petersen said during an evening press conference on Friday, Jan.15. "The virus is spreading fairly rapidly throughout the Americas and a large percentage of the population may become infected. Because of the growing evidence that there is a link between Zika virus and microcephaly, we thought it was very important to warn people as soon as possible."

The travel warning has also highlighted Latin America's campaign against mosquitoes. As a matter of fact, New York Times reported that Brazil has started deploying soldiers to destroy habitats where the insects thrive. While Colombia has released swarms of mosquitoes treated with bacteria that limit their capacity to spread disease. Mexico is testing the first vaccine against dengue fever, a mosquito-borne virus raging throughout the region.

In addition, the C.D.C. warning has also ignited growing concerns across Latin America over the region's alarming vulnerability to mosquito-borne diseases, particularly in Brazil. And since Brazilian officials hope that tourism will revive its beleaguered economy through hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics, the nation's tourism minister Henrique Alves commented on C.D.C.'s warning on Saturday, arguing that their government were adopting measures to prevent Zika outbreak from intensifying in the country.

Dr. Artur Timerman, however, said that C.D.C.'s announcement was "entirely appropriate," adding that he has also advised his 32-year-old daughter to avoid getting pregnant in Brazil.

"The announcement by the C.D.C. is entirely appropriate, given the risks in Brazil," the 62-year-old infectious disease specialist in Sao Paolo said, before adding, "If she [Timerman's own daughter] wants to do so, her best course of action is to leave the country and go to a place where Zika is not a problem."

Meanwhile, a baby born with a catastrophic birth defect linked to poor mental abilities has become the first case of the Zika virus in Hawaii, Daily Mail reported.

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