Updated 06:55 AM EDT, Wed, Jun 23, 2021

Australian Government Releases List of 20 Countries to Avoid to Protect Against Zika Virus

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The Australian government has released a list of 20 countries that people should avoid traveling to until further notice. Health officials deemed the nationwide recommendation as a precautionary measure to combat the spread of the dreaded Zika virus.

As per the Australian government's official website, here's the list of countries stricken with the Zika virus:

  •  Barbados
  •  Bolivia
  •  Brazil
  •  Cape Verde
  •  Colombia
  •  Ecuador
  •  El Salvador
  •  French Guiana
  •  Guadelope
  •  Guatemala
  •  Guyana
  •  Haiti
  •  Honduras
  •  Martinique
  •  Mexico
  •  Panama
  •  Paraguay
  •  Puerto Rico
  •  Saint Martin
  •  Samoa
  •  Suriname
  •  Venezuela

The new directive is mostly targeted at pregnant Australian women, since the Zika virus has been linked to numerous birth defects in the above-stated countries. BBC reported that the recent outbreak was first reported in Brazil early last year. Since then, multiple countries have issued travel warnings to South America, while South American women have been asked to postpone their pregnancies.

Symptoms of the Zika virus are surprisingly mild. People who are infected hardly feel anything at all. However, in some serious, albeit rare cases, the Zika virus causes fever, rash, severe headaches, joint pain and muscle pain. Infected children, adults and senior citizens usually do not require hospitalization, but the same cannot be said about pregnant women.

Brazil's health ministry discovered last November that the Zika virus was linked to brain damage in thousands of babies in the country. The birth defect is known as microcephaly, a condition that causes infants to have small heads and underdeveloped brains.

Just last week, The World Health Organization indicated, via The Guardian, that the number of suspected microcephaly cases in Brazil has ballooned to 4,000.

Laura Rodrigues, a health professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said the Zika virus was initially considered as non-threatening to the public, thus only a small amount of research has been conducted. However, the recent outbreak has completely changed the scientific community's view on the mosquito-borne virus.

"Evidence includes temporal association between Zika outbreaks and microcephaly outbreaks both in Brazil and French Polynesia," the epidemiologist said. "The virus is neurotropic. It grows in the brain of the foetus and destroys brain structures so the developing brain is malformed -- small -- that's the cause of the microcephaly."

Oxford University health professor Trudie Lang hoped the research community will be able to know more about the Zika virus quicker than it did with Ebola.

"There are many unknowns and so research is urgently needed to understand what is happening and how to prevent further cases," she said.

In Australia, The Sydney Morning Herald reported that out of all the mosquito types breeding in the country, only the Aedes aegypti is capable of transmitting the Zika virus. This particular mosquito can only be found in north Queensland.

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