Zika re­mains po­ten­tial threat

Preg­nant women, those try­ing to con­ceive urged to avoid ar­eas with cases

The Detroit News - - Front Page - BY LAURAN NEERGAARD Associated Press

Washington — The Zika virus may not seem as big a threat as last sum­mer but don’t let your guard down — es­pe­cially if you’re preg­nant or try­ing to be.

While cases of the birth de­fect­caus­ing virus have dropped sharply from last year’s peak in parts of Latin Amer­ica and the Caribbean, Zika hasn’t dis­ap­peared from the re­gion and re­mains a po­ten­tial threat.

It’s hard to pre­dict how much risk peo­ple face in lo­cales with smolder­ing in­fec­tion, or if cases might spike again. For now, preg­nant women still are be­ing urged not to travel to an area with even a few re­ported cases of Zika.

“It’s part of the new re­al­ity,” said Dr. Martin Cetron of the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

Those try­ing to con­ceive, and their part­ners, are ad­vised to check with their doctor on how long to wait af­ter vis­it­ing a lo­ca­tion with ac­tive Zika in­fec­tion.

In the past month, Puerto Rico and Brazil, hard hit by Zika last year, de­clared their epi­demics over. But smaller num­bers of in­fec­tions con­tinue around the re­gion, ac­cord­ing to the CDC and the Pan Amer­i­can Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“Zika hasn’t gone away,” said CDC act­ing di­rec­tor Dr. Anne Schuchat. “We can’t af­ford to be com­pla­cent.”

The U.S. Zika Preg­nancy Reg­istry counts 1,963 preg­nant women in U.S. states who had lab tests show­ing Zika in­fec­tion since of­fi­cials be­gan count­ing in 2016, and an­other 4,107 in U.S. ter­ri­to­ries.

Since the be­gin­ning of June, 271 preg­nant women were added to the reg­istry’s Zika count, 80 of them in U.S. states and the rest res­i­dents of U.S. ter­ri­to­ries.

What about non­preg­nant trav­el­ers? CDC has counted 140 cases so far this year in U.S. states, all of them who had symp­toms. The vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple who get Zika don’t no­tice symp­toms, yet still are po­ten­tial spread­ers of in­fec­tion if mos­qui­toes back home bite them and then some­one else. That hap­pened late last year in parts of South Florida and Texas, and lo­cal health of­fi­cials re­main on alert in case it hap­pens again. There is no treat­ment for Zika. Ba­bies born to Zika-in­fected mothers can ex­pe­ri­ence se­vere brain-re­lated de­fects even if mom had no symp­toms. Ab­nor­mally small heads, called mi­cro­cephaly, are the most at­ten­tionget­ting de­fect. Ba­bies also may have hear­ing or vi­sion loss, seizures, trou­ble swal­low­ing or re­stricted limb move­ment.

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