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Pregnant women who’ve traveled to Latin America, Caribbean urged to get tested for Zika virus

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Posted at 6:18 PM, Jan 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-20 20:18:20-05

SALT LAKE CITY – If you’re pregnant, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging you to avoid traveling to countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, as a mosquito-born virus called Zika is putting expectant women at risk.

These are the affected areas: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico.

Doctors say 80 percent of people who get Zika virus never show signs, as the symptoms are mild. They include fever, rash, red eyes and joint pain.

“We are referring those who do have symptoms and meet the criteria to be tested,” said Dallin Peterson, Zoonitic Disease Epidemiologist for the State of Utah.

The infection is skyrocketing in Brazil, where cases of babies born with brain damage has grown from a few hundred in 2014 to more than 3,500 in 2015.

“In the fetus that are still in the womb, if they do an ultrasound, they could have microcephaly,” Peterson said.

Zika has made its way to the United States. A woman who lived in Brazil gave birth to a baby in Hawaii who had the Zika virus. Other cases have surfaced in Texas, Florida and Illinois – all are travel related. So far, there are no cases in Utah, but local health leaders are taking a lot of calls.

“If they do any foreign travel, they're coming back and they are concerned because there are outbreaks in certain places of the world,” Peterson said.

There’s no vaccine or cure for the virus. The key is to not get exposed.

“If they are to use mosquito repellent with Deet or sleep under a net, or soak your clothes in permethrin just to try to limit that interaction in between the mosquito and human,” Peterson said.

Click here to read the entire CDC travel warning.