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Zika virus crops up in US with 5 new cases

Thursday, Jan 21, 2016,10:45 IST By metrovaartha A A A

Houston | Mosquito-borne Zika virus, which has caused birth defects in Latin America, 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, according to health officials. Texas has also recorded its cases.

A traveler returning from El Salvador in November fell ill with fever, rash and joint pain. Following month-long tests and investigations, it was confirmed that he had brought the virus into the country.

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. The mother likely had Zika infection when she was residing in Brazil in May 2015 and her newborn acquired the infection in the womb. However, Hawaii health officials said in a statement Wednesday that neither the baby nor the mother is infectious and there was never a risk of transmission in Hawaii.

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, from where residents travelled to Colombia in December. The third case is a resident from the Tampa area in St. Petersburg, who travelled to Venezuela in December. Blood tests were confirmed by the state public health laboratory in Tampa. No official tally of US cases is available, according to officials. There is no evidence that the virus has begun to spread locally in the US so far, they say.

The US Centers 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 travelers 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 fetus which can cause microcephaly in which the brain and skull are abnormally small.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito is the insect that can transmit the viruses that can spread zika fever, dengue fever, chikungunya, and yellow fever. 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.