HealthDay News — US health officials issued guidelines on Tuesday for health care providers whose pregnant patients may have traveled to countries – especially Brazil – where the mosquito-borne Zika virus has been linked to microcephaly.
The officials recommend that providers ask all their pregnant patients about recent travel and certain symptoms – such as a sudden fever or a rash. If Zika virus infection is possible, doctors should have their patients tested for Zika virus disease, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If testing shows signs of Zika virus infection, ultrasounds should be considered to monitor fetal development. And a referral to a maternal-fetal medicine or infectious-disease specialist with expertise in pregnancy management also is recommended, the agency said.
Last Friday, the CDC issued a travel warning for 14 countries and territories exposed to the Zika virus. The travel alert targets pregnant women and those who want to become pregnant. The CDC alert listed the following countries and regions in Central and South America and the Caribbean: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico.
“We believe this is a fairly serious problem,” Lyle Petersen, MD, MPH, director of the CDC’s Division of Vector Borne Infectious Diseases, said during an evening press conference Friday. “The virus is spreading fairly rapidly throughout the Americas and a large percentage of the population may become infected,” he said. “Because of the growing evidence that there is a link between Zika virus and microcephaly, we thought it was very important to warn people as soon as possible.”