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CDC Issues Travel Warning After Explosion Of Dangerous Zika Virus

U.S. health officials are telling pregnant women to avoid travel to Latin America and Caribbean countries with outbreaks of Zika, a tropical illness linked to birth defects. James Gathany/AP hide caption

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James Gathany/AP

U.S. health officials are telling pregnant women to avoid travel to Latin America and Caribbean countries with outbreaks of Zika, a tropical illness linked to birth defects.

James Gathany/AP

Following the rapid outbreak of a malarial virus called Zika in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned pregnant women against traveling to those regions. The tropical illness has been linked to birth defects.

"Out of an abundance of caution, pregnant women advised to consider postponing travel to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing," the CDC said Friday.

Usually, the virus causes cold-like symptoms, but for pregnant women, Zika may also be causing a birth defect called microcephaly: babies being born with small heads and severe brain damage. As NPR's Jason Beaubian reported earlier this week, the disease turned up in Brazil in May 2015 and has spread quickly.

Jason says Brazil has seen cases of microcephaly skyrocket from about 200 a year to more than 3,000 last year. The CDC, citing Brazilian health authorities, says more than 3,500 microcephaly cases were reported in Brazil between October 2015 and January 2016.

The risks are so great that some Brazilian health officials have suggested that women in high Zika-transmission areas delay having a child.

Countries Where The Zika Virus Is Spreading

Map of countries w/ cases of Zika