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ACOG Supports the CDC’s Travel Warnings tied to Zika

Update Date: Jan 23, 2016 11:00 AM EST

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) stated that it supports the new travel guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in response to the mosquito-born Zika virus.

The ACOG, which is the largest organization that represents obstetricians and gynecologists in the U.S., is also warning women who are pregnant or planning on getting pregnant, to avoid traveling to countries were the virus has been detected.

"There is much that we do not yet know about the Zika virus and its effects during pregnancy, for example whether pregnant women are of greater risk of infection than non-pregnant individuals," ACOG President Dr. Mark DeFrancesco said in the statement reported by Medical Xpress. "However, because of the associated risk of microcephaly, avoiding exposure to the virus is best. That's why pregnant women and women who are considering pregnancy should delay planned travel to areas where Zika virus outbreaks are ongoing."

The Zika virus, which has been reported in numerous countries in Central and South America, was linked to a birth defect known as microcephaly, which occurs when an infant is born with an abnormally small head. Microcephaly can lead to mental retardation and death in some cases.

In Brazil, the authorities reported more than 3,500 cases of microcephaly this past year, which is a dramatic increase from the 150 cases that were confirmed in 2014. Due to the potential link between the Zika virus and microcephaly, the ACOG is recommending medical professionals to take more detailed patient histories for their female patients who are pregnant or have plans to get pregnant.

"Because some women may have traveled to affected areas prior to this advisory, obstetrician-gynecologists and other health care providers should ask all pregnant women about recent travel, and women who have traveled to these regions should be evaluated for Zika virus infection," DeFrancesco said. "Because there is no treatment for Zika virus at this time, women should be counseled about all options available to them. When possible, delivery at a center with the appropriate levels of neonatal expertise may be warranted

He added, "Of course, this is an evolving area. We encourage health care providers and patients to continue to monitor the CDC for updated information."

The CDC's travel warnings initially included Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico. The country and territory list was expanded to include Barbados, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guadeloupe, Saint Martin, Guyana, Cape Verde, and Samoa.

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