(CNSNews.com) -- Thirty-one “travel-related” cases of the Zika virus have been confirmed in the U.S., according to a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.
“At this time we are not sharing the state[s]. We hope to provide a comprehensive list within the next day or two," CDC spokesman Benjamin Haynes told CNSNews.com in an email.
The incurable virus, which has been linked to a surge of microcephaly in unborn children, is transmitted by mosquitos.
It is believed to have originated in the Zika forest in Uganda, according to a January 27 article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
“The disease now has ‘explosive’ pandemic potential, with outbreaks in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the Americas,” according to authors Daniel Lucey, an infectious disease expert at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, and Lawrence Gostin, a professor at Georgetown’s Law Center.
“Zika virus infection usually is asymptomatic or causes mild illness, such as fever, rash, muscle/joint pain, and conjunctivitis; severe disease and fatalities are uncommon,” they write in The Emerging Zika Pandemic.
Although the authors warn that “causation between Zika virus and microcephaly is not yet established,” they note that the virus has been found “in the placenta and amniotic fluid of mothers and in the brains of fetuses or newborns.
“Brazil has reported nearly 4,000 cases of suspected microcephaly in 2015, representing a 20-fold increase from 2010 through 2014,” according to the article.
“Since Brazil reported Zika virus in May 2015, infections have occurred in at least 20 countries in the Americas,” the authors add, and it “is likely to spread to the United States.”
However, “a safe and effective Zika virus vaccine is probably 3 to 10 years away even with accelerated research."
The first domestic case in the U.S. was reported on January 15, 2016 in Hawaii “in a newborn whose mother had lived in Brazil. Days later, Florida, Illinois, and Texas reported several infected individuals (some pregnant) after international travel,” the JAMA article stated.
The CDC has issued a Level 2 Alert– the first-ever for pregnant women – advising them to postpone travel to areas with ongoing Zika transmissions, including Mexico, South and Central America, and the Caribbean.
Scott Weaver, director of the Institute for Human Infections and Immunity in Galveston, Texas, told the BBC that “if the infection of the foetus does occur and microcephaly develops, we have no ability to alter the outcome of that very bad disease which is sometimes fatal or leaves children mentally incapacitated for the remainder of their life.”