Florida health officials said three new cases of the Zika virus have been discovered in the state.
And all three cases were found in pregnant women who traveled out of the country recently, authorities said.
Health care professionals in the Tampa Bay area are hearing from a lot of concerned residents planning trips abroad or seeking additional information about the contagious virus.
“Every day someone else calls in either regarding something they’ve seen in the (newspaper) or something they heard from a family friend or because they plan to travel,” said Antoinina Watkins, a Tampa OBGYN physician.
With a total of 32 cases reported in Florida. Watkins’ advice to her patients is simple.
“We’re trying to tell patients to avoid the risk as much as possible because very little is known about it,” Watkins said.
What health experts do know is the virus can spread through a mosquito bite. And it is not just women at risk. The virus can be spread through sex.
"The virus has been found in sperm for longer periods of time than it’s been found in blood," said Watkins. "So there is a potential for transmission through unprotected sex even after the person has ceased to have symptoms.”
Watkins said symptoms of the Zika virus typically show up within the first month of infection.
So far, the Centers for Disease Control said 52 cases have been found in 16 states and the District of Columbia.
But that doesn't mean all pregnant women are living in fear.
“I was a little bit concerned when I first heard there were some cases in Florida, but I read about it and it seemed like the risk is pretty low," said a local pregnant woman whose name was unavailable.
However, she doesn’t plan to take chances. The soon-to-be mom is planning to avoid places with travel restrictions until after she gives birth.
Unfortunately it may be too late for three pregnant women hoping health care officials will find a cure soon.
Health officials have encouraged pregnant women and others with weak immune systems to avoid traveling to Mexico, the Caribbean and countries in Central and South America until further notice.