The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently warned that pregnant women should now avoid Brownsville, Texas, where local mosquitoes have infected five people with the spreading Zika virus. The virus can cause birth defects to a fetus when a woman becomes infected during pregnancy.
The Miami and South Beach area of Florida, where local mosquitoes had started infecting people with Zika starting last July, was declared free of locally-transmitted Zika in December by Governor Scott. This is a welcome development, just in time for the winter travel season! (In all, Florida has reported 249 locally transmitted cases of the virus.)
People become infected by Zika when they are bitten by infected mosquitoes. Most people with Zika were infected while traveling to Central or South America where the virus has spread, but the virus could become established in parts of the U.S. Besides birth defects, the virus can cause a rash, high fever, and other symptoms. Only 20% of people infected with the virus show symptoms.
Recently, it was discovered that the virus can be transmitted sexually. Because of this, people who travel to areas where there is Zika, even if they show no symptoms of the disease, should abstain from sex or use safe sex measures for six months after returning. About 5,000 cases of Zika have been reported in the U.S.