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Samoa, 7 other countries, added to Zika virus travel advisory

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    This January 2016 image provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows a Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease that has been linked in Brazil to a large number of cases of microcephaly, a rare birth defect. Infants with microcephaly have smaller than normal heads and their brains do not develop properly.

Health authorities have added eight tropical destinations, including Samoa, to a travel alert about an illness linked with a severe birth defect and spread by mosquitoes.

The updated alert issued today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention brings the total to 22 destinations, where there have been outbreaks of the Zika virus.

The new locations are Barbados, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guadeloupe, Saint Martin and Guyana; Cape Verde, off the coast of western Africa; and Samoa in the South Pacific.

Last week’s alert included Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Suriname and Venezuela.

Earlier this week, the CDC urged blood testing for pregnant women who have experienced symptoms during or shortly after travel to a country in which the Zika virus is spreading.

In October, Cape Verde reported the first local transmission of Zika virus infection, and Samoa reported its first in November. It was not immediately clear why those countries were not part of the CDC’s earlier travel advisory.

The latest travel advice remained a Level 2 advisory, meaning it concerns only travelers with specific risk factors — in this case, pregnancy. But Guillain-Barré syndrome, a potentially life-threatening paralysis, has been found in men and women with probable Zika infection in Brazil and French Polynesia.

The CDC says pregnant women should consider postponing trips to these destinations because the virus has been linked with microcephaly. Affected newborns have unusually small heads and abnormal brain development.

All travelers to these areas are advised to take precautions, including using repellent and wearing long sleeves and long pants, to avoid mosquito bites.

Zika illness can cause fever, rash and joint pain but most people infected by mosquito bites don’t show symptoms. There’s no specific treatment; infected people aren’t contagious.

The CDC says people who do develop symptoms should tell their doctors where and when they traveled.

The CDC and the state Health Department said a baby born in an Oahu hospital developed microcephaly after the baby’s mother likely contracted the Zika virus in Brazil.

Neither the baby nor the mother is infectious and officials said there’s no risk of transmission in Hawaii.

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The New York Times and Star-Advertiser staff contributed to this story.

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Online:

Zika: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/

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