By Catherine Morton Gray, JD, BLR Senior Managing Editor
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared the Zika virus a “public health emergency of international concern.” According to WHO, the virus is transmitted by mosquitoes and is linked to a spike in birth defects in cases where the mother contracted the virus during pregnancy. Also, a study in Brazil suggests there is a link between the virus and a rise in incidents of Guillame-Barre syndrome, which can cause temporary paralysis.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued travel notices related to the Zika virus for the Pacific Islands, Caribbean, Central America, South America, Cape Verde, and Mexico. Individuals traveling to these areas are advised to take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes that may carry the virus.
In addition, there is strong evidence, according to WHO and the CDC, that infection with the Zika virus during pregnancy can result in babies born with microcephaly, a very serious disease that causes babies to be born with small heads because their brains have not developed properly.
Because of this threat, pregnant women and those that may become pregnant are advised not to travel to affected areas. If they must travel to these areas, pregnant women are advised to consult with their doctors first and to strictly follow precautions to avoid mosquito bites.