Mosquito-borne Zika virus has begun cropping up in the US as Florida and Illinois, for the first time, have respectively recorded three and two cases of the disease which has caused birth defects in Latin America, according to health officials.
A Hawaiian newborn was confirmed by the health officials last week as the first case in the US. He was born with microcephaly, a Zika-associated condition involving a malformed skull and brain. Texas has also recorded its cases.
A traveller returning from El Salvador in November fell ill with fever, rash and joint pain. Following a month-long testings and investigations, it was confirmed that he had brought the virus into the country.
“The mother likely had Zika infection when she was residing in Brazil in May 2015 and her newborn acquired the infection in the womb. Neither the baby nor the mother are infectious and there was never a risk of transmission in Hawaii,” Hawaii health officials said in statement yesterday.
All of those diagnosed with Zika in the US were reportedly infected in countries overseas where Zika began circulating, health officials said.
Two of the Florida cases occurred in Miami-Dade County residents who travelled to Colombia in December; the third case is a resident from the Tampa, St. Petersburg area who travelled to Venezuela in December. Blood tests were confirmed by the state public health laboratory in Tampa.
According to officials, there is no official tally of US cases is available. So far, they say, there is no evidence that the virus has begun to spread locally in the US.
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention issued a yellow travel alert late Friday, advising pregnant women to consider postponing travel to Mexico, Puerto Rico and more than a dozen other countries in South America, Central America and the Caribbean where the mosquito-borne Zika virus is circulating. The agency warned all travellers to these areas to take precautions and avoid mosquito bites.
The virus has quickly spread across South America and the Caribbean in recent weeks. Over 3,500 cases of microcephaly have been reported in Brazil and 46 babies have died.
The Zika virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, cannot spread between humans. However, for pregnant women, it can be transmitted to the foetus which can cause microcephaly in which the brain and skull are abnormally small.
The Aedes Aegypti mosquito is common in warm climates, including Southeast Asia, Africa, South America, Central America, the Caribbean and the Southeast US.
Zika virus often produces flu-like symptoms like fever, headaches and joint pain as well as skin rashes and conjunctivitis among others.