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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Hospitals across South Florida are talking with their staff and providing extra training in light of the Zika virus.

Transmitted by mosquitoes, the World Health Organization has declared it a worldwide problem.

“The situation meets the conditions for a public health emergency,” according to a WHO release on Monday.

Dr. Jorge Perez, head of the Neonatal ICU at South Miami Hospital, says pregnant women are their biggest concern because there appears to be a link between the virus and birth defects.

Pregnant women who show up at the hospital will now be asked specific questions.

“One of the things we’re going to be implementing in this hospital,” he explained, “Is making sure that any patient who comes to this hospital is asked about travel history.”

The Florida Department of Health reported six new travel-associated cases of Zika in Florida to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

To date, Florida has confirmed nine travel-associated cases, of which Miami-Dade has four.

Of the 28 countries and territories where the virus has been transmitted, Brazil has seen the largest outbreak with an estimated 1.5 million cases. Most of those are mild. Eighty percent of those infected won’t show symptoms.

“Unlike Ebola that took your life,” said Perez, “This is more or less like flu-like symptoms. They usually last anywhere from two days to a week. They don’t require hospitalization, they don’t require any treatment at all which is supportive care.”

For now, pregnant women are being advised not to travel to areas where the virus is present. If they do, they should consult with their doctor first.

“Our heightened concern is solely because of pregnant women,” said Perez. “If pregnant women weren’t affected like this, in this manner, thereby producing these birth defects this would not be a global health emergency.”

Click Here for more on the Zika virus.

Ted Scouten

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