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Pregnant ladies should not travel to countries at risk of Zika virus transmission: IMA
Pregnant women should avoid traveling to countries at risk of mosquito-borne Zika virus transmission, which is strongly suspected of causing microcephaly. In hard-hit Brazil there is a possible link between the virus and Guillain-Barre syndrome.

The list of countries in the travel alert issued by the CDC is as follows:

• The 14 countries and territories earlier identified in Central and South America and the Caribbean are Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

• The CDC added 8 countries and territories to the list; of these, six are in the Caribbean and South America: Barbados, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guadeloupe, Saint Martin, and Guyana and the two Cape Verde and Samoa, break the geographic pattern. Cape Verde is off the coast of Africa while Samoa is in Polynesia.

Brazil has counted a surge of almost 4000 cases of microcephaly in newborns since October 2015. The abnormally small heads of these babies often are accompanied by incomplete brain development, which can lead to a lifetime of health problems. In severe cases, newborns do not survive for long.

Faced with these risks, Colombia and El Salvador have urged women to delay becoming pregnant, in the case of El Salvador, until 2018.

Speaking on the issue, Dr S S Agarwal, National President, IMA and Padma Shri Awardee, Dr K K Aggarwal, Hony. Secretary General, IMA in a joint statement said, "Women who have made such trips and develop Zika symptoms - fever, rash, muscle aches and conjunctivitis - during or within 2 weeks of their travel should be tested for the virus. Clinicians should report positive tests to the appropriate local or state health department. In addition, they should schedule regular ultrasounds to monitor fetal growth in Zika-positive pregnant women".

Zika infection is generally a mild illness in adults. Only one in 5 individuals who catch the virus develops symptoms, which usually disappear within a week. Zika has been isolated in human semen, and one case of possible person-to-person sexual transmission has been described.

There is currently no evidence of Zika being transmitted to babies through breast milk. The disease's rapid spread, to 21 countries and territories of the region since May 2015, is due to a lack of immunity among the population and the prevalence of the Aedes aegypti mosquito that carries the virus.

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