After the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention issued new travel guidelines in an attempt to protect pregnant women from the Zika virus, US health officials have confirmed that a baby in Hawaii was just born with brain damage after being infected by the mosquito-borne disease.
The travel warning comes after mosquitoes spreading the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in newborns, first appeared in South America in May, and this is the first case of the damaging virus in a birth on US soil.
Hawaiian state health officials said that the baby was likely infected in the womb after the mother fell ill with the Zika virus while living in Brazil in May 2015.
Federal health officials have now issued a travel alert for 14 countries and territories in the Caribbean and Latin America where there is a risk for infection. This is the first time the CDC has advised expecting mothers to avoid a specific region during an outbreak.
Areas of concern include Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico.
Although this warning could have a devastating impact on tourism to Brazil and other Latin American and Caribbean countries where mosquitoes have been found spreading the Zika virus, some infectious-disease specialists say such a warning is warranted.
The once-obscure virus is rapidly spreading, and evidence indicates that it may cause a horrific birth defect called microcephaly. Women who are infected with the virus often break out in a mild rash and fever, and pregnant moms — particularly in the first trimester — appear to be much more likely to give birth to children with small heads and brain damage.
There is no vaccine or treatment against the Zika virus, and microcephaly can kill babies, cause miscarriages, or result in severe disabilities.