RI Dept. of Health issues Zika virus warning

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island officials are tackling the Zika virus crisis in other countries.

Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott is advising against travel to affected areas for pregnant women and those trying to become pregnant as the virus raises more questions for medical professionals.

On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) formally categorized Zika as a “public health emergency of international concern.”

“If I was pregnant, I would really try to defer my travel until after we figure out how long this epidemic is going to go on,” said Rhode Island Department of Health Medical Consultant Rebecca Rees.

Rees said the Zika virus should be taken seriously, especially by Rhode Islanders traveling to countries where the virus is prevalent.

“There has been a travel advisory put out by the CDC which has also been shared with all the states that anyone who is planning to travel to that part of the world should check the CDC website to see which countries are affected,” Rees explained. “We know of 26 countries so far, and then if you are pregnant the risk that the virus can cause you and your baby. You should want to defer that travel at all possible.”

As for the mosquitoes that carry the virus, Rees made it clear that there’s no threat to Southern New England.

Aedes aegypti mosquito
Fact Sheet: Mosquito-Borne Diseases and Prevention » (James Gathany/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via AP)

“The mosquito that transmits the Zika virus is not found in Rhode Island or the northern states,” she said. “It’s not been shown to be local in our area, so the only way that we can get this virus right now is by traveling there or from another person who’s traveled there.”

Information about Zika is constantly evolving. On Tuesday, health officials in Texas said a person there was infected with the virus after having sex with an ill person who had returned from South America.

So far, one New Englander, a Boston man, has contracted the disease while traveling abroad.

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