A virus likely to have caused thousands of birth defects in Brazil has been found in three individuals in New York. Pregnant women traveling abroad have been warned to exercise particular caution.
The New York State Department of Health announced on its website late Friday that three people in the state had tested positive for the Zika virus. The virus, well known in Latin American and Caribbean countries, is known to cause birth defects such as microcephaly if pregnant women become infected.
The Zika virus is often transmitted by mosquitoes, and has been likened to a milder form of dengue fever. No medicine or vaccine exists against the virus, which causes symptoms like rash, fever, pink eye and joint pain, and so the only cure is rest.
Health officials in New York said the three patients had recently returned from countries were the virus is prevalent, and that one had already recovered.
"…This is a time of year when people travel to warmer climates and countries where Zika virus is found, we are urging residents, especially pregnant women, to check all health advisories before traveling and take preventive measures when traveling to affected countries," said state health commissioner Howard Zucker.
Under normal circumstances, Zika is not a particularly common virus, but health authorities have had cause to worry over an extended outbreak in Brazil that began last year. Since October, some 3,500 babies in the South American nation have been diagnosed with microcephaly, a debilitating condition which causes their heads to be smaller than normal and can lead to disruptions of motor skills, speech ability, and mobility.