By Kathleen Doheny
The Zika virus, spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes and other means, is here to stay, and with it the potential for serious birth defects, public health experts warned today.
From January 2015 to May 31, 2017, 5,285 cases of Zika have been reported on the U.S. mainland, said Oscar Alleyne, PhD, senior adviser for public health programs for the National Association of County and City Health Officials. The group hosted a Zika virus update during a press conference co-sponsored by the Big Cities Health Coalition and the March of Dimes.
In addition, more than 36,000 confirmed Zika cases have happened in U.S. territories. Of the 250 pregnant U.S. women confirmed with Zika infection in 2016, 10% delivered a baby with Zika-related birth defects, Alleyne said.
With government funding possibly expiring for some Zika-related programs, consumers need to stay vigilant and educated more than ever, the experts said.
"Zika is real," said Paul Jarris, MD, chief medical officer for the March of Dimes, at the press conference. "Protect yourself. Know before you go (if the virus is present at your destination)," he warned travelers. If it is present, travelers should consider postponing their trip, especially if you are trying to get pregnant.