Thinking of a winter escape to the South American tropics? If you're pregnant, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is advising you to think twice.
The advisory comes after many months of following the spread of the Zika virus from Brazil through the Caribbean islands, Central, and South America. Most recently, a pregnant woman in Hawaii was reported to have delivered a baby that may have been infected with the virus.
Zika virus is spread by the Aedes genus of mosquitoes. People can't infect other people with Zika, but they can serve as the intermediary source for more Zika infections by the mosquitoes. In adults, infection with the virus can bring no symptoms at all or cause mild cold-like symptoms, such as fever and headaches. However, in pregnant mothers, the virus has been linked to babies being born with microcephaly - a condition marked by abnormally small heads and brains. Over 4,000 cases of Zika-linked microcephalic births were reported for Brazil last year.
There are currently no vaccines or treatments for Zika. And researchers don't exactly know the mechanism behind how Zika affects humans. Until this is worked out, the link between Zika and birth defects remains just that - a link. But health officials warn pregnant women to not take chances, and Brazilian officials are going as far as advising women to delay pregnancy if possible.