Pennsylvania Urged To Read Zika Virus Travel Advisories

Jan 29, 2016

In this photo from Dec. 23, 2015, Dejailson Arruda holds his daughter Luiza at their house in Santa Cruz do Capibaribe, Pernambuco state, Brazil. Luiza was born with microcephaly and authorities think it was caused by her mother's Zika virus infection.
Credit Felipe Dana / AP

Health officials are asking Pennsylvanians to pay attention to travel advisories as they test six to eight people for the mosquito-borne Zika virus. No cases are confirmed yet.

Loren Robinson of the Pennsylvania Department of Health said Friday that each person being tested had traveled to an area affected by Zika.

The virus' symptoms tend to be slight, and include fever, rash, pain or conjunctivitis. Health officials suspect the infection causes a birth defect called microcephaly, in which a babies' head is smaller than normal and the brain may not have developed properly.

Dr. Kurt Barnhart, chair of the Pennsylvania section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said the virus isn’t to be taken lightly, but isn’t as serious as many fear.

“We don’t want to overblow the importance of this; a baby born with microcephaly is a very big deal. And if it can be avoided, by all means, it should be avoided. But this is not something that happens to every woman and every pregnant woman, and to date it has not happened in the United States,” he said.

Brazil is seeing a wave of such birth defects.

Loren Robinson, deputy secretary for health promotion and disease prevention at the Pennsylvania Department of Health, said pregnant women should take caution when planning a vacation.

“Pay attention to the travel advisories issued, with regard to the 22 countries and regions, specifically with regard to pregnant women and ask that pregnant women consult with their healthcare providers, if they have traveled to those regions recently and if there’s travel plans,” she said.

Health officials are advising pregnant women to consider postponing travel to areas where the Zika virus transmission is active. Those areas include Mexico and parts of Central and South America.