Because the Zika virus is spreading throughout Latin America and countries in the Caribbean, the Centers for Disease Control issued a travel warning to pregnant women on Jan. 15.
Though the mosquito-borne illness is only severely impacting several countries right now, it is expected to expand. Recently, the first U.S. case was reported in Texas outside Houston.
“In the Caribbean, currently, Zika is found only in Haiti, Martinique and Puerto Rico, but I believe this situation could quickly escalate and expand,” Dr. Peter Hotez, professor at Baylor University, said. “My rationale is this is more or less what we saw with another arbovirus infection transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes known as chikungunya.”
The disease chikungunya first appeared in the Caribbean island of Saint Martin in 2013 and has since spread to 45 different countries. Zika could potentially follow the same growth pattern, which means that it could see significant growth quickly.
“I’m especially worried about Haiti, where I believe the areas worst human tragedy could emerge,” Hotez said. “According to their ministry of public health, Zika has arrived in Haiti with five known cases in Port-Au-Prince, the capital. The reason I am specifically concerned about Haiti is because of its extreme level of poverty, together with findings published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases that arboviruses (viruses transmitted by mosquitoes) disproportionately affect poor people.”