THE United States on Friday advised pregnant women to temporarily postpone their travel to the Philippines and 10 other Southeast Asian countries where Zika infection have been reported.
“Zika virus has been present in areas of Southeast Asia for many years, and several countries have reported occasional cases or small outbreaks of Zika virus infections,” the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in an advisory posted on its website.
It noted that while a large number of local residents are likely to be immune to Zika, US travelers may not be.
Along with the Philippines, countries included in the Zika watch list are Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Thailand, Timor-Leste (East Timor) and Vietnam.
The number of Zika cases in the Philippines have risen to 12. One of the patients is a 22-year-old woman from Cebu who is pregnant with her first child.
The CDC noted that Zika is endemic in the Philippines and the risk of traveling is unknown but is likely lower than those where the virus is newly introduced and spreading.
“Because of the risk of birth defects in babies born to women who were infected with Zika while pregnant, women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should discuss their travel plans with their doctor and consider postponing nonessential travel to the Philippines,” the CDC said.
Zika is mainly a mosquito-borne disease. Infection during pregnancy causes severe birth defects, including microcephaly and other fatal brain abnormalities.
If the travel is deemed unavoidable, Americans were advised to strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites and exposure to the Zika virus.