Health Officials Issue Warning on Zika Virus - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Health Officials Issue Warning on Zika Virus

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DOVER, Del. - The Delaware Division of Public Health endorsed national safety guidelines on Friday, relating to the spread of the Zika virus. The travel guidelines have been issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and are urging pregnant women to postpone travel to areas where Zika transmission is ongoing.

Those impacted countries include Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Barbados, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Panama. For the complete list of Caribbean, Central and South American, and African countries impacted, visit http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices.

“All cases of Zika transmission have occurred outside the continental United States,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay.  “All cases in the continental U.S. are linked to travel and we have no lab-confirmed cases in Delaware. But, given the reports of serious birth defects in babies of mothers infected with Zika, DPH wanted to reinforce the CDC travel guidelines.”

There is neither a vaccine nor antiviral medications available to prevent Zika virus infection, and so the CDC is recommending that people take the guidelines seriously if they are pregnant, or trying to become pregnant. 

The World Trade Organization has called the spread of the illness "explosive," calling for immediate action to be taken. 

"The level of alarm is severely high..." said Margaret Chan, the director general of the World Health Organization. "We need to get some answers quickly."

There are currently in between three and four million cases of the illness, across the globe. That includes at least 32 reported cases in the United States, across 12 states and Washington, DC. That includes a case in Virginia. None of the cases in the United States were transmitted locally. All of the infected people were travelers. 

There have been reports of a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly, a condition in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age, and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant. Knowledge of the link between Zika and these outcomes is evolving, but until more is known, DPH joins the CDC in recommending special precautions.

Lewes grandmother Linda Tilley said that the rise of this virus is "troubling."

"When I think of something like this," she said. "It's - I want to cry. I want to cry. I mean, I'm 67 years old, and I've seen so much in my lifetime. Now there's just one more thing." 

A frightening aspect of the spread of the disease is that the majority of those infected do not show symptoms. That allows for the virus to "silently strike" the most vulnerable victims, pregnant women and babies. 

Milton father Lucas Pensinger, said he hopes the global community can be prepared, in combating the disease. 

"It's something people should know about," he said. "Something that is worth educating. I know definitely any time things are affecting unborn children or young children, it gets people pretty scared." 

The DDPH said that all women who traveled to an area with ongoing Zika virus transmission during pregnancy should be evaluated for Zika virus infection and tested in accordance with CDC latest guidance. To report a potential illness or receive further guidance on testing, call the DPH Office of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at 302-744-4990.

For further information on Zika, visit CDC Frequently Asked Questions.

For clinical guidance on screening, visit here.

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