A mosquito-borne virus that causes horrific birth defects in babies has spread to New York from Latin America.
ABC affiliate WABC-TV reports four cases of Zika virus have been confirmed in the New York area.
None of the cases involve pregnant women. At least 2 of the cases got the infection when they traveled outside of New York.
In pregnant women, the virus crosses the placenta and attacks the unborn fetus causing brain damage, seizures and microcephaly (abnormally small brains in newborns).
The epidemic has become so alarming that officials in El Salvador are advising women not to get pregnant.
“It’s not up to the government; it’s up to God,” the NY Times quotes Vanessa Iraheta, 30, who is seven months pregnant with her second child. “I don’t think the youth will stop having children.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued advisories warning pregnant women to avoid traveling to Latin America where the Zika virus is prevalent.
The virus is transmitted to humans by infected mosquitos, according to the CDC.
The CDC is investigating reports that the Zika virus may be sexually transmitted.
There is no known cure for the virus, and the symptoms are usually mild (low grade fever, headaches). For that reason the virus is often misdiagnosed.
The Zika virus has spread to at least 25 countries. So far there have been no reported deaths caused by the virus.
Brazil is particularly hard hit by the virus. Nearly 4,000 children in Brazil have been born with microcephaly.
American Airlines is issuing refunds to pregnant passengers who booked flights to countries in central and south America, CNN reports.
United Airlines is giving pregnant customers "who are traveling to the affected regions the opportunity to rebook at a later date or receive a full refund."
And British Airways said pregnant customers could change their booking, delay their journey or change their destination free of charge.