US issues travel alert over Zika virus in Latin America, Caribbean

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Zika Virus Spreads, Officials Consider Travel Warning for Pregnant Women

U.S. health officials on Friday issued a travel warning for 14 countries and territories in the Caribbean and Latin America where infection with Zika, a mosquito-borne virus, is a risk.

SEE ALSO: Zika virus case confirmed in Texas; person traveled to Latin America

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in particular cautioned pregnant women not to travel to those areas as Zika has been linked to a serious birth defects.

The travel alert applies to Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and the U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

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New mosquito-borne virus spreads in Latin America
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US issues travel alert over Zika virus in Latin America, Caribbean
Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which transmit dengue fever as well as chikungunya, stand in a cage to be examined by scientists at the Gorgas Memorial Institute for Health Studies in Panama City, Friday, Sept. 26, 2014. Chikungunya is a word that comes from the Makonde language of Tanzania and translates roughly as “that which bends up,” in reference to the severe arthritis-like ache in the joints that causes sufferers to contort with pain. It’s usually accompanied by a spiking fever and headache. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)
In this Sept. 25, 2014 photo, containers hold genetically modified aedes aegypti mosquitoes before being released in Panama City. The Gorgas Memorial Institute for Health Studies, along with British biotechnology company Oxitec Ltd., released the mosquitos to combat and control populations of mosquitoes that transmit dengue. The aedes aegypti mosquito is the main vector for another viral disease called chikungunya that appeared less than a year ago in the Americas and is raging across the region, leaping from the Caribbean to the Central and South American mainland, bringing the total number infected in the epidemic to more than 1 million. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)
A scientist from the Gorgas Memorial Institute for Health Studies counts male and female genetically modified aedes aegypti mosquito pupae with a microscope at a laboratory in Panama City, Friday, Sept. 26, 2014. The institute, along with British biotechnology company Oxitec Ltd., released genetically modified mosquitos in Panama to combat and control populations of mosquitoes that transmit dengue. The aedes aegypti mosquito, the main vector for the viral disease called chikungunya and known for decades in parts of Africa and Asia, appeared less than a year ago in the Americas. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)
A technician shows mosquitoes that are infected with a dengue-blocking bacteria called "Wolbachia" in the Tubiacanga neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014. The scientists at the Rio de Janeiro-based Fiocruz research institute are taking part in a global project to release the mosquitoes. Some scientists estimate that around 390 million people get dengue each year. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
A technician releases mosquitoes that are infected with a dengue-blocking bacteria called "Wolbachia" in the Tubiacanga neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014. It’s hoped the bacteria will be passed through generations of mosquitoes and eventually wipe out the insects’ ability to spread dengue. Similar action has already taken place in Australia, Vietnam and Indonesia. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
A technician releases mosquitoes that are infected with a dengue-blocking bacteria called "Wolbachia" in the Tubiacanga neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014. It’s hoped the bacteria will be passed through generations of mosquitoes and eventually wipe out the insects’ ability to spread dengue. Similar action has already taken place in Australia, Vietnam and Indonesia. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
A technician shows mosquitoes that are infected with a dengue-blocking bacteria called "Wolbachia" in the Tubiacanga neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014. The scientists at the Rio de Janeiro-based Fiocruz research institute are taking part in a global project to release the mosquitoes. Some scientists estimate that around 390 million people get dengue each year. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
Technicians carry a box of mosquitoes that are infected with a dengue-blocking bacteria called "Wolbachia" in the Tubiacanga neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014. Brazilian researchers freed the batch of mosquitoes in hopes of combating the tropical disease naturally. Dengue, for which there is no cure, causes extreme joint pain and headaches, though most often isn’t fatal. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
A technician releases mosquitoes that are infected with a dengue-blocking bacteria called "Wolbachia" in the Tubiacanga neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014. It’s hoped the bacteria will be passed through generations of mosquitoes and eventually wipe out the insects’ ability to spread dengue. Similar action has already taken place in Australia, Vietnam and Indonesia. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
In this Sept. 5, 2014 photo, genetically modified aedes aegypti mosquitoes are contained before being released in the Nuevo Chorrillo neighborhood on the outskirts of Panama City. The Gorgas Memorial Institute for Health Studies, along with British biotechnology company Oxitec Ltd., released the mosquitos to combat and control populations of mosquitoes that transmit dengue. The aedes aegypti is the main vector for another viral disease called chikungunya. According to the Pan American Health Organization, chikungunya has spread to at least two dozen countries and territories across the hemisphere since the first case was registered in French St. Martin in late 2013. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)
In this Sept. 6, 2014 photo, a Panama Health Ministry worker shows tubes of pupae and larvae of aedes aegypti mosquitoes during a fumigation in the Tocumen neighborhood on the outskirts of Panama City. Chikungunya, which has been known for decades in parts of Africa and Asia, is transmitted when a mosquito bites an infected person and then feeds on someone else. It may have found fertile ground in Latin America and the Caribbean because many people are outside in the daytime, when aedes aegypti bite, or lack adequate screens on their windows. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)
FILE- In this undated file photo provided byt he USDA, an aedes aegypti mosquito is shown on human skin. Health officials in the Dominican Republic said this Tuesday April 29, 1014, that the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus has spread widely since making its first appearance in the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control the chikungunya virus is most often spread to people by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. These are the same mosquitoes that transmit dengue virus. They bite mostly during the daytime. (AP Photo/USDA, File)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY by Natalia Ramos A researcher examines transgenic Aedes aegypti mosquitos kept in cages to collect their eggs, at a laboratory of biotech company Oxitec, in Campinas, 100 km from Sao Paulo, Brazil, on August 21, 2014. Oxitec produces genetically modified mosquitoes to fight dengue, a deadly tropical disease more prevalent in Brazil than anywhere else in the world. The factory developed a technology where eggs of Aedes aegypti receive microinjection of DNA with genes that produce a protein which prevents their offsprings from reaching adulthood and thus reducing the total population of transmitters of dengue. AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY by Natalia Ramos Transgenic Aedes aegypti mosquitos are kept in cages for reserachers to collect their eggs, at a laboratory of biotech company Oxitec, in Campinas, 100 km from Sao Paulo, Brazil, on August 21, 2014. Oxitec produces genetically modified mosquitoes to fight dengue, a deadly tropical disease more prevalent in Brazil than anywhere else in the world. The factory developed a technology where eggs of Aedes aegypti receive microinjection of DNA with genes that produce a protein which prevents their offsprings from reaching adulthood and thus reducing the total population of transmitters of dengue. AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY by Natalia Ramos A researcher examines transgenic Aedes aegypti mosquitos kept in cages to collect their eggs, at a laboratory of biotech company Oxitec, in Campinas, 100 km from Sao Paulo, Brazil, on August 21, 2014. Oxitec produces genetically modified mosquitoes to fight dengue, a deadly tropical disease more prevalent in Brazil than anywhere else in the world. The factory developed a technology where eggs of Aedes aegypti receive microinjection of DNA with genes that produce a protein which prevents their offsprings from reaching adulthood and thus reducing the total population of transmitters of dengue. AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY by Natalia Ramos Transgenic Aedes aegypti mosquitos are kept in cages for reserachers to collect their eggs, at a laboratory of biotech company Oxitec, in Campinas, 100 km from Sao Paulo, Brazil, on August 21, 2014. Oxitec produces genetically modified mosquitoes to fight dengue, a deadly tropical disease more prevalent in Brazil than anywhere else in the world. The factory developed a technology where eggs of Aedes aegypti receive microinjection of DNA with genes that produce a protein which prevents their offsprings from reaching adulthood and thus reducing the total population of transmitters of dengue. AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY by Natalia Ramos A researcher collects eggs of transgenic Aedes aegypti mosquitos, at a laboratory of biotech company Oxitec, in Campinas, 100 km from Sao Paulo, Brazil, on August 21, 2014. Oxitec produces genetically modified mosquitoes to fight dengue, a deadly tropical disease more prevalent in Brazil than anywhere else in the world. The factory developed a technology where eggs of Aedes aegypti receive microinjection of DNA with genes that produce a protein which prevents their offsprings from reaching adulthood and thus reducing the total population of transmitters of dengue. AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY by Natalia Ramos A researcher collects eggs of transgenic Aedes aegypti mosquitos, at a laboratory of biotech company Oxitec, in Campinas, 100 km from Sao Paulo, Brazil, on August 21, 2014. Oxitec produces genetically modified mosquitoes to fight dengue, a deadly tropical disease more prevalent in Brazil than anywhere else in the world. The factory developed a technology where eggs of Aedes aegypti receive microinjection of DNA with genes that produce a protein which prevents their offsprings from reaching adulthood and thus reducing the total population of transmitters of dengue. AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY by Natalia Ramos Larvae of transgenic Aedes aegypti mosquitos are pictured through a microscope viewfinder at a laboratory of biotech company Oxitec, in Campinas, 100 km from Sao Paulo, Brazil, on August 21, 2014. Oxitec produces genetically modified mosquitoes to fight dengue, a deadly tropical disease more prevalent in Brazil than anywhere else in the world. The factory developed a technology where eggs of Aedes aegypti receive microinjection of DNA with genes that produce a protein which prevents their offsprings from reaching adulthood and thus reducing the total population of transmitters of dengue. AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY by Natalia Ramos Larvae of transgenic Aedes aegypti mosquitos are pictured through a microscope viewfinder at a laboratory of biotech company Oxitec, in Campinas, 100 km from Sao Paulo, Brazil, on August 21, 2014. Oxitec produces genetically modified mosquitoes to fight dengue, a deadly tropical disease more prevalent in Brazil than anywhere else in the world. The factory developed a technology where eggs of Aedes aegypti receive microinjection of DNA with genes that produce a protein which prevents their offsprings from reaching adulthood and thus reducing the total population of transmitters of dengue. AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY by Natalia Ramos Transgenic Aedes aegypti mosquitos are seen in a container at a laboratory of biotech company Oxitec, in Campinas, 100 km from Sao Paulo, Brazil, on August 21, 2014. Oxitec produces genetically modified mosquitoes to fight dengue, a deadly tropical disease more prevalent in Brazil than anywhere else in the world. The factory developed a technology where eggs of Aedes aegypti receive microinjection of DNA with genes that produce a protein which prevents their offsprings from reaching adulthood and thus reducing the total population of transmitters of dengue. AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY by Natalia Ramos Transgenic Aedes aegypti mosquitos are seen in containers at a laboratory of biotech company Oxitec, in Campinas, 100 km from Sao Paulo, Brazil, on August 21, 2014. Oxitec produces genetically modified mosquitoes to fight dengue, a deadly tropical disease more prevalent in Brazil than anywhere else in the world. The factory developed a technology where eggs of Aedes aegypti receive microinjection of DNA with genes that produce a protein which prevents their offsprings from reaching adulthood and thus reducing the total population of transmitters of dengue. AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY by Natalia Ramos The production supervisor of biotech company Oxitec, Sofia Bastos Pinto, looks at transgenic Aedes aegypti mosquitos kept in a container at the lab in Campinas, 100 km from Sao Paulo, Brazil, on August 21, 2014. Oxitec produces genetically modified mosquitoes to fight dengue, a deadly tropical disease more prevalent in Brazil than anywhere else in the world. The factory developed a technology where eggs of Aedes aegypti receive microinjection of DNA with genes that produce a protein which prevents their offsprings from reaching adulthood and thus reducing the total population of transmitters of dengue. AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY by Natalia Ramos The production supervisor of biotech company Oxitec, Sofia Bastos Pinto, looks at transgenic Aedes aegypti mosquitos through a microscope at the lab in Campinas, 100 km from Sao Paulo, Brazil, on August 21, 2014. Oxitec produces genetically modified mosquitoes to fight dengue, a deadly tropical disease more prevalent in Brazil than anywhere else in the world. The factory developed a technology where eggs of Aedes aegypti receive microinjection of DNA with genes that produce a protein which prevents their offsprings from reaching adulthood and thus reducing the total population of transmitters of dengue. AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY by Natalia Ramos The production supervisor of biotech company Oxitec, Sofia Bastos Pinto, looks at larvae of transgenic Aedes aegypti mosquitos kept in trays at the lab in Campinas, 100 km from Sao Paulo, Brazil, on August 21, 2014. Oxitec produces genetically modified mosquitoes to fight dengue, a deadly tropical disease more prevalent in Brazil than anywhere else in the world. The factory developed a technology where eggs of Aedes aegypti receive microinjection of DNA with genes that produce a protein which prevents their offsprings from reaching adulthood and thus reducing the total population of transmitters of dengue. AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)
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It also includes advice that women who are trying to become pregnant should consult with their doctor before traveling to those areas.

Zika virus is transmitted by Aedes species mosquitoes, which also spread dengue and chikungunya viruses and are common in Texas, Florida and elsewhere in the United States.

Zika is usually a mild illness with fever, rash and joint pain. There is no preventive vaccine or treatment, according to the CDC.

Dr. Lyle Peterson, director of CDC's division of vector-borne diseases, said the agency has confirmed that Zika virus was present in samples provided by Brazilian health authorities from two pregnancies that ended in miscarriage and from two infants with diagnosed microcephaly who died shortly after birth. Microcephaly is a birth defect where a baby's head is abnormally small and brain development is incomplete.

Genetic analysis showed that the virus in the four cases was the same as the Zika virus strain currently circulating in Brazil.

CDC officials said the biggest risk was in the first trimester of pregnancy, and continued into the second trimester.

Petersen, speaking on a conference call, said the CDC had confirmed 26 cases of the disease among returning U.S. travelers since it was first reported in 2007, and is still receiving specimens for testing from travelers who recently became ill.

In December, Puerto Rico confirmed the first locally acquired case of Zika virus in a person who had not traveled outside the island.

CDC said all travelers should take protective measures against mosquitoes, such as netting and repellent, if they travel to areas where the infection is present.

Zika virus outbreaks have occurred in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, and have been reported in some countries in the Americas.

(Reporting by Deena Beasley; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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