CDC map illustrates areas affected or possibly affected by the spread of Zika virus
Will Zika virus spread to U.S.?
02:25 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

CDC expands list of nations pregnant women should avoid

El Salvador, Jamaica and Colombia tell women not to get pregnant

CDC says Zika virus has been transmitted by blood transfusion, in the lab and sexually

CNN  — 

Pregnant women should not travel to Barbados, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guadeloupe, Saint Martin, Guyana, Cape Verde and Samoa because of Zika virus, the CDC said Friday.

This comes on the heels of last week’s travel alert from the CDC recommending pregnant women postpone travel to Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela and Puerto Rico. The recommendations also call for women who have traveled to these places during their pregnancy be screened and monitored for the virus if their visit took place while the virus was present in the country they visited.

The decision is based on their ongoing monitoring of the Zika virus around the world and CDC say they will update as necessary in the interest of public health.

Zika virus is a mosquito borne disease. An individual becomes infected by the bite of an infected mosquito. Symptoms of the virus include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes and can last from a few days to about a week. But 80% of individuals infected have no symptoms.

So why is there so much concern?

The virus has been linked to an increase in cases of a rare neurological condition called microcephaly in babies. Microcephaly results in babies being born with abnormally small heads, and often serious, and sometimes deadly, developmental delays.

This is what prompted the Salvadoran vice minister of health to tell women there not to get pregnant for two years. “We’re recommending that women who may get pregnant plan their pregnancies and try to avoid getting pregnant this year and the next,” Eduardo Espinoza told CNNEspanol Thursday.

Colombia and Jamaica issued similar recommendations for women to delay pregnancy earlier this week.

Brazil was the first nation to give this advice in November after they saw a sharp increase in the rare birth defect coinciding with an outbreak of the virus there. The Ministry of Health has recorded more than 3,700 cases of microcephaly in 2015 and so far this year. In comparison, 147 cases of microcephaly were recorded in 2014.

The CDC conducted tests on human tissue from babies in Brazil confirming a the link between Zika virus and microcephaly.

Health officials there and in El Salvador, also suspect a surge of the rare disorder Guillian Barre Syndrome, or GBS, is connected to Zika virus. GBS is a rare disorder in which an individual’s immune system attacks nerve cells, resulting in muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. The CDC is working with the Ministry of Health in Brazil and has a team on the ground conducting investigating a possible link between the two.