By Debbie Gregory.
More than 40 members of the U.S. military have contracted the Zika virus this year in countries where it is present, government officials said; among them a pregnant woman, for whom Zika can be particularly dangerous.
The cases, which include active duty, National Guard and reserve personnel, were acquired outside of the continental United States.
Nonetheless, the Defense Department is continuing to monitor U.S. military installations at risk for mosquito-borne diseases, according to Pentagon spokesman Air Force Maj. Benjamin Sakrisson.
DoD did not provide details on the status of the expectant mother or her unborn baby. Zika has been linked to birth defects such as microcephaly; one study released in May by the Centers of Diseases Control and Prevention and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health estimated that fetuses of mothers infected with Zika in their first trimester face up to a 13 percent chance of being born with severe brain abnormalities.
As of July 27, 1,658 cases of Zika infection have been reported in the continental U.S. and 4,750 in U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico, according to the CDC. The cases include 433 pregnant women in the U.S., and 422 in the territories..
U.S. military installation managers began aggressively monitoring for the species of mosquitoes that can carry Zika and other diseases in March. There are almost 200 military installations in areas where mosquitoes capable of carrying Zika are also found.
Zika is primarily transmitted through Aedes mosquitoes, the same insects that spread the dengue and Chikungunya viruses.
Those infected with the virus who will get sick will experience flu-like symptoms, fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes that last up to a week. But for pregnant women, the virus carries far worse outcomes: Zika can cause microcephaly in babies born to infected mothers, a condition that stunts the growth of babies’ heads and can result in serious cognitive, neurological, and motor disabilities.
In addition to the troops diagnosed with Zika, seven military family members also have tested positive, also contracting the disease outside the continental U.S.