Pan American Health Organization Stresses Zika Surveillance, CDC Issues New Guidelines

The Zika virus is now circulating in 18 countries and territories of Latin America and the Caribbean, causing the Pan American Health Organization to recommend that its 35 member countries monitor and report any increase in neurological syndromes and congenital anomalies.

The Zika virus is now circulating in 18 countries and territories of Latin America and the Caribbean, causing the Pan American Health Organization to recommend that its 35 member countries -- they stretch from Canada to Chile -- monitor and report any increase in neurological syndromes and congenital anomalies, "which growing evidence suggests may be linked to Zika infections," according to the UN organization.

PAHO was founded in 1902 and calls itself the world's oldest international public health agency.

PAHO's Jan. 17 Epidemiological update reported that these countries and territories had confirmed local Zika virus transmission by that date: Brazil, Barbados, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Suriname, and Venezuela. (All but French Guiana and Martinique are member states or associate members.) This number was twice as many as reported having locally transmitted cases of Zika in the previous epidemiological update of Dec. 1, 2015.

In its Jan. 17 alert, PAHO also recommended that countries in the Americas "prepare their health facilities to respond to a potential increase in demand for specialized care for neurological syndromes, to strengthen prenatal care, and to continue their efforts to reduce the presence of mosquito vectors through effective vector-control strategies and communication to the public."

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Jan. 19 issued new interim guidelines for health care providers in the United States that are caring for pregnant women during a Zika virus outbreak. These guidelines include recommendations for pregnant women considering travel to an area with Zika virus transmission and recommendations for screening, testing, and management of pregnant returning travelers.

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