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Birth Defects

Zika virus: Travel warning issued for pregnant Irish women

A total of 19 countries are covered by the warning.

Brazil Zika Virus Associated Press Associated Press

THE DEPARTMENT OF Foreign Affairs has updated their travel advice for Central and South American countries as fears grow over the spread of the Zika virus.

The World Health Organisation is investigating an apparent link between the virus – spread by mosquitoes - and a rise in birth defects.

Babies across the region, and at least one in the United States, have been born with abnormally smaller heads — a condition doctors call microcephaly, which can cause brain damage.

The scare has struck hardest in Brazil, which hosts the summer Olympic Games in August.

A total of 19 countries are covered by the warning, with pregnant women being advised to “discuss your travel plans with your healthcare provider and to consider postponing your travel to affected areas”.

“Irish citizens are advised to follow guidance available on the website of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre,” the warning adds.

The countries are:

  • Barbados
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • French Guinea
  • Guadeloupe
  • Guatemala
  • Guyana
  • Haiti
  • El Salvador
  • Honduras
  • Mexico
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Puerto Rico
  • Martinique
  • Suriname
  • Venezuela

The United States has also warned pregnant women not to visit several countries because of the Zika risk.

The World Health Organization (WHO) this week noted a surge in cases of microcephaly in Brazil, the country most affected by the current epidemic.

WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said on Friday there were 3,893 suspected microcephaly cases in Brazil, which included 49 deaths. Before last year there were about 160 cases of microcephaly in Brazil on average.

Brazil Zika Birth Defects Luiza, a baby born in Caruaru, Pernambuco state, Brazil, with microcephaly, pictured here in December 2015. Associated Press Associated Press

“The link between the Zika and the microcephaly… is still being investigated,” Lindmeier said, but acknowledged that Zika ”seems the strongest candidate.”

He said there were “about 20 countries in the Americas which are reporting Zikacases, and about 10 in Africa, Asia and the Pacific,” but the biggest outbreaks were in Brazil, Colombia and elsewhere in Latin America.

Contains reporting by © – AFP 2016

Read: What you need to know about the ‘brain-shrinking’ virus now appearing in the US >

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