As reports of the Zika virus in America have gone viral on the internet and social media, the state of New York has begun providing free testing to women travelers, according to NBC New York. The state Department of Health issued an advisory in early February that, in addition to providing free testing for anyone who’s exhibiting signs of the Zika virus, health care officials are also checking any pregnant woman who has recently visited a country known to be afflicted by the virus.
Overall, there have been at least 11 New Yorkers who have tested positive for the Zika virus and nine official cases of pregnant women with it in the U.S. overall, according to The New York Times. One of those nine women has given birth to a child with microcephaly, a birth defect that can cause infants to be born with abnormally small heads and potential brain damage.
What started as an epidemic contained to primarily South American and Caribbean island nations has gradually made its way onto the U.S. mainland. Even the notion that the virus could only be contracted via mosquito bites has been called into question after reports of it being spread through sexual contact have emerged.
Of the eight other pregnant women with the virus in the U.S., two have since aborted their babies (one after it was discovered the unborn child had severe brain atrophy), two have been miscarried, two have delivered healthy babies, and two are still pregnant at the time of this writing.
Complications during pregnancy and childbirth can, of course, arise for a variety of different reasons. On average, 28,000 children are born with a birth injury of some kind in the U.S. every year. The Zika virus has proven to be a serious risk factor when it comes to the health of babies still in their mother’s wombs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all of the pregnant women involved had traveled to a country known to be carrying the virus, which is why the new standing order of free testing for such women was enacted.
If you’ve traveled to a country in question or are showing signs of the Zika virus, it’s best to get tested early. Symptoms can include a rash, fever, joint pain, or conjunctivitis. They usually develop after a couple days of being bitten.