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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued travel restrictions for women of childbearing age during an outbreak of a dangerous new illness.  It’s called the zika virus and it presents enough of a health risk that it could derail spring and summer travel plans.

Ricardo Lopez, MD is an OB-GYN at Orlando Health in Florida, one of the states most vulnerable for the zika virus to spread.  Dr. Lopez says women of childbearing age are most at risk because the zika virus can cause birth defects. That’s why the CDC is warning people not to travel to 14 countries, mostly in Central and South America and the Caribbean.

Here, Dr. Lopez answers questions about this current health concern:

What is the zika virus?

It is a mosquito borne flavivirus transmitted by the Aedes aegyoti mosquito.  This is the same insect that transmits dengue and chikungunya virus.  It is found in the Americas (South America, Central America, Caribbean region, and some parts of the United States)

How are women of child-bearing age affected?

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The fetus of a pregnant woman infected with the virus while pregnant can develop microcephaly (small brains) and intracraneal calcifications.

What are the most common symptoms of the zika virus?

The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week.

If women have to travel to areas where the zika virus is currently being transmitted, what precautions should they take?

Wear long sleeve shirts and long pants, use EPA registered insect repellents, and sleep in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms.

Where can women find more information about the zika virus?

The best sources of information are Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Department of Health and Human Services