With the Zika virus disease spreading rapidly through Latin America, public health authorities in the United States are racing to contain the outbreak. By the end of February, the CDC had confirmed 147 Zika cases in U.S. residents who had traveled to Zika-endemic areas. While symptoms of Zika tend to be mild, the virus has been linked to serious birth defects, so public health efforts are focused primarily at mitigating the risk Zika poses to pregnant women.

  • By mid-February, nine pregnant women who had traveled to Zika-endemic areas and contracted the virus had been reported to the CDC. Of these, four pregnancies ended in miscarriage or termination, and one child was born with microcephaly.
  • While Zika is transmitted primarily via mosquito bites, the CDC is investigating more than a dozen reported cases of Zika transmitted via sexual contact.
  • Public health authorities say Zika can trigger Guillain-Barre syndrome in a small number of infections.
  • For frontline clinicians, travel history is key to identifying potential cases of Zika in pregnant women who may have been exposed.
  • The FDA has expedited approval of a new test that can detect antibodies to Zika. The CDC is in the process of providing the test to labs across the country, with a priority on public health departments.