BIDDEFORD (WGME) — Researchers at the University of New England are warning anyone who may be traveling south for spring break that the Zika Virus is a bigger risk now, more than ever before, in the United States.
Zika has faded from the headlines, but Dr. Meghan May, an associate professor of microbiology and infectious diseases, said the public needs to keep talking about it. She said the strain in the Western Hemisphere is far more aggressive and complicated than originally thought.
May said her lab has been studying the virus extensively.
Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more birth defects in parts of the U.S. that have had Zika spread locally. The report said southern Florida, parts of south Texas and Puerto Rico saw a 21 percent increase in defects in the second half of 2016.
May said researchers have learned men can sexually transmit the virus for up to a year after they’re infected, but a lot of people never even know they have it because it can come without any symptoms.
“We know about these cases that have been documented and published,” said May. “There’s not a doubt in my mind there are more than that, because so many people are sick and not being tested. And we don’t know what that number is.”
May said anyone traveling to those southern areas should pack lots of mosquito repellent, and go see a doctor if they get a fever within 14 days.