The Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease that has a possible link to birth defects, has been spreading, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week there are "a dozen or so" cases in the United States.
Several state health agencies have confirmed cases in Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey and Texas, according to The Washington Post
. CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said that the reported cases are from 2015 to the present. However, health officials are advising the public not to worry, as all of the U.S. cases so far were contracted abroad from mosquitos in countries affected by outbreaks.
According to the CDC website, Zika outbreaks
have occurred in areas of Africa, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the Americas, particularly Brazil.
Brazilian health officials have become concerned because the disease may be linked to more than 3,500 children born with microcephaly since October, The Post reported. The condition can cause babies to be born with abnormally small heads and is tied to incomplete brain development.
Colombia has reported 13,500 cases of the Zika virus, while Bolivia recently reported its first case of a pregnant woman with the disease.
"We are the second country [in Latin America] after Brazil in the number of reported cases," Colombia health minister Alejandro Gaviria said, according to the BBC. Gaviria urged women to think twice about conceiving during the remainder of the outbreak, which could last until July.
Symptoms of the disease include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis, which could last several days, the CDC noted. Rare severe cases could lead to hospitalization.
On Tuesday, the CDC issued guidelines for healthcare workers
treating pregnant women during the Zika outbreak. The guidelines include screening, testing, and management of pregnant women returning from outbreak areas.
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