U.S. Won’t Screen New Arrivals for Zika Virus

Screening is ineffective, Homeland Security statement says

The U.S. will not screen people entering the country for the Zika virus because so many of those infected do not have symptoms, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced in a published statement.

“Based on our current understanding of the virus, enhanced public health entry screening for Zika would not be effective,” the DHS said. “Most people who are infected with Zika are asymptomatic and therefore could not be identified during the screening process.”

However, if an immigration officer observes signs of illness, a traveler may be referred to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for “additional medical evaluation,” the statement said.

Undocumented individuals who are detained by the border patrol and show signs of illness will be held separately from others, the DHS said. In particular, pregnant women who are detained will be screened, will undergo blood testing for the Zika virus, and will be provided prenatal care while in custody if they come from countries where the mosquito-borne virus is prevalent.

Most Zika cases are mild, but the infection has been associated with a rapid rise in the number of children born with microcephaly to mothers infected during pregnancy. The infection has also been linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome, a neurological disorder that can cause paralysis or even death.

Sources: DHS; February 11, 2016; and Medical Xpress; February 12, 2016.