Baton Rouge experts weigh in on Zika virus

Baton Rouge experts weigh in on Zika virus

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Concern has spread as the Zika virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, is appearing in the U.S. and affecting some pregnant women.

So far, doctors confirm three cases in Florida as well as as a man in Texas and two pregnant women in Illinois who tested positive. Hawaii also confirmed a case, including a baby now born with a birth defect.

Local experts weighed in on the virus believed to be responsible for a rash of birth defects in certain countries, including some popular spots for south Louisiana vacationers.

"What is concerning and what is new to all of us in my field is that it's rampant in the Caribbean and South America, Central America," said Dr. Marshall St. Amant, a specialist on birth defects at Woman's Hospital. "If you are pregnant and you have the symptoms that have been reported in the news, call your OB/GYN. We can do an ultrasound to measure the size of the head and give you reassurance and then follow you out through the pregnancy."

The symptoms can mimic several diseases.

Doctors say if a woman does contract the Zika virus it is not a 100 percent guarantee that she will pass it on to her baby.

The CDC is advising women who are pregnant or may become pregnant not to travel to affected countries like Brazil and places in South America.

LSU research professor Rebecca Christofferson studies transmission. She said the Zika virus is similar to others that have been seen transmitted by mosquitoes.

"I don't think you have to worry about it coming here and really taking off like it has in those countries," said Christofferson. "We have very good mosquito abatement programs here. We also have screens and air-conditioning that keep those mosquitoes responsible out of our house."

Christofferson said the disease has only been spotted in a handful for people who have traveled out of the country.

"It's not a new virus, it's an old virus," she said. "It is sort of new on the research scene. So, we don't know a lot about it. It's not characterized well like dengue or chikungunya that has been around."

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