Zika virus: Olympics plans announced by Rio authorities

Three people in NY - including one from Queens - have tested positive for a mosquito-borne virus linked to severe birth defects in newborns, officials said.

Ensure there is no stagnant water at home, and use insect repellent to keep mosquitoes at bay. Thousands of Brazilian babies are known to have come down with microcephaly, or unusually small heads, in the wake of the outbreak, a sharp increase from the hundred or so cases that normally occur annually.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, issued an alert, warning expectant mothers not to travel to the affected countries. The CDC also recommended women who have recently traveled to these places during their pregnancy be screened and monitored for the virus.

They are Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Cape Verde, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Samoa, Surinam and Venezuela.

"While many of us are convinced and believe it's highly plausible that Zika virus caused this epidemic of Guillain-Barre, and can cause it anywhere the virus is being transmitted, we still lack really firm evidence to make that diagnosis", said Ko, who has conducted research in northeastern Brazil for two decades.

Brazil has recorded 3,893 microcephaly cases since an unusual spike in the rare condition was noticed in the country's northeast in October.

The organizing committee will follow virus prevention and control measures provided by the authorities and provide relevant guidance to all who attend the games, the spokesman said.

The virus was isolated in 1947 in a monkey in the Zika Forest in Uganda. Unlike its cousin dengue, which can cause high fever and joint pain, Zika produces symptoms, including mild fever and rash, that are often so light that people don't know they have the disease.

Dawn Wesson, from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, said that there's a good chance that the Zika virus will spread locally this coming summer, based on the pattern observed with other mosquito-borne virus, the chikungunya.

However, mosquito bites and mother to unborn baby aren't the only ways this virus is transmitted.

Governments across the region, from Colombia to Jamaica, have begun advising women to delay pregnancy until the virus has been controlled.

Apart from the outbreaks in South America and the Caribbean, small numbers of cases have been detected in East Malaysia, Cambodia, the Philippines and Thailand, she said.

The virus was first reported in Africa, Asia and the Pacific before leaping to the Americas past year.

Vanessa Coleman

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