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Travel warning issued for pregnant women amid Zika outbreak

There is a growing outbreak of a mosquito-borne virus called Zika virus. The infection has been linked to birth defects, and travel warnings are going up.

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Christine Arce-Yee

CBS News

Last week, the first U.S. case of a baby infected in the womb was reported in Hawaii.

Christine Arce-Yee was looking forward to one last getaway before the birth of her first child. Then she heard about the danger Zika virus might pose to pregnant women.

"I read an article about Zika spreading into the Caribbean. I was like 'Oh my God, is it in Aruba?' Because I can't take that risk."

The CDC is advising pregnant women to avoid travel to 14 countries and territories in Latin America and the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico, Mexico and Haiti.

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Dr. Nikos Vasilakis is a virologist at the University of Texas medical branch.

"We do not need to scare people, but we need to be able to educate them, to be able for themselves to be able to make rational decisions."

The mosquito-borne illness has been linked to a condition called microcephaly, which is an abnormally small head and underdeveloped brain at birth.

In 2015, as Zika infection spiked in Brazil, more than 3,500 women there had babies born with the condition. That's compared with a previous average of 163 a year.

The Zika infection has gone from Asia, to Africa, to South America. It's only a matter of time, it seems, before it makes its way up to North America.

"This is a consequence of the jet age. This is life in the 21st century," said Dr. Vasilakis.

Even though Zika virus has not been found in Aruba, Arce-Yee cancelled her trip. "Even if there isn't a documented case of Zika there, I don't want to be the first," she said.

Zika symptoms include fever, rash, and joint pain. These usually resolve within a week or so. There's no vaccine and no specific antiviral medication, so Brazilian officials are focusing on eradicating mosquitoes and educating the public about how to prevent mosquito bites.

  • Jonathan LaPook

    Dr. Jonathan LaPook is the chief medical correspondent for the CBS Evening News. Follow him on Twitter at @DrLaPook