There are now 107 reported cases of Zika virus among United States travelers who returned from Zika-infected countries and 40 locally acquired cases in U.S. territories, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revealed on Friday.
This count does not include 117 diagnosed Zika virus cases in Puerto Rico, reported to the health agency after they already released the numbers above. This makes Puerto Rico the most affected area, according to CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden.
There are now nine confirmed Zika virus cases among pregnant women in the country who have returned from travel to Zika-infected locations. Ten more reports of the virus in this group are being investigated.
The CDC also advised pregnant women against traveling to the Summer Olympics to be held in Brazil, which aligns with its existing recommendations for those expectant mothers to postpone traveling to areas of transmission.
The CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report contains more information about these existing Zika cases.
Frieden clarified the potential role of Zika in miscarriages, which two women opted for.
"It's important to note that 10-20 percent of all pregnancies end in a spontaneous miscarriage, so the fact that [Zika is] present doesn't necessarily mean that it caused them. However, its presence in the placenta is certainly suggestive that it may have,” he explains.
A baby, whose identity or location remains undisclosed, was born with severe microcephaly, a birth defect characterized by unusually small heads and potential brain damage. In January, the Hawaii health department reported an Oahu-born infant with the condition.
The CDC has tested 257 pregnant women for the virus since August 2015. The nine confirmed individuals all visited places badly hit by Zika, namely Brazil, American Samoa, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Samoa.
A separate CDC report also noted two confirmed and four likely sexually transmitted cases of the virus – those infected are 19 to 55 years old, some are pregnant. Transmission in a number of the cases was through condomless vaginal intercourse. It remains unknown how long Zika stays in semen.
Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration has granted the emergency use of a new CDC test for the virus. The Zika MAC-ELISA, a blood test that detects antibodies four days to 12 weeks after the initial symptoms.
The test, however, can yield false positives if someone is struck by a related virus, for example, dengue fever. This makes additional screening important in order in the event of a positive or inconclusive test in order to confirm a Zika case.