The Philippines was included in the Zika virus-related travel advisory by the United States.
The U.S. government on Thursday issued the advisory, recommending pregnant women to consider postponing non-essential travel to identified countries in the region.
Ten other countries majority in the Southeast Asian region are also in the list, including Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a statement that people could face an “uncertain risk” of Zika virus infection when they travel to these countries.
The U.S. CDC said that Zika virus has been present in areas of Southeast Asia for many years and that several countries have reported occasional cases or small outbreaks.
“Recent variations in the number of cases reported in the area have been observed. Zika virus is considered endemic in some of these countries, and many people who live there are likely immune, ” it said.
“But U.S. travelers to areas where Zika is endemic may not be immune to the virus and infections have occurred in travelers to Southeast Asia.”
It noted that the level of risk for Zika virus infection in these countries is unknown, but it is likely lower, but not zero, than in areas where Zika is newly introduced and spreading widely.
“However, because Zika virus infection during pregnancy causes severe birth defects, including microcephaly and other severe brain abnormalities, pregnant women should talk to their healthcare provider and consider postponing nonessential travel to Southeast Asia,” the U.S. agency said.
Zika virus testing, it said, should be offered to pregnant women and considered for other people who have symptoms of Zika virus disease if they have recently traveled to Southeast Asia.
Previously, the CDC has issued a travel warning against the ASEAN member-nation of Singapore, where more than 300 cases of locally transmitted Zika have been reported.
The August 30 travel alert urged pregnant women to avoid travelling to Singapore, not just consider postponing nonessential travel.
Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito and it can also be spread sexually.
Currently, there is no vaccine or medicine for Zika virus. The best way to avoid Zika virus infection is to prevent mosquito bites. ((report from Xinhua)