Mississippians remain at low risk for becoming infected with the mosquito-borne Zika virus, but the state Department of Health on Wednesday advised pregnant women to avoid traveling to countries with ongoing virus transmission.
The rapidly spreading virus has been reported in about 30 countries in the Caribbean and Central and South America since May, and there have been 52 travel-related cases in the United States, including Alabama and Florida.
The World Health Organization has declared Zika a global health emergency.
For most people, symptoms of Zika are mild and can include fever, joint pain, conjunctivitis or a rash lasting several days. About 80 percent of those infected show no symptoms at all.
The virus has also been linked to -- but not proven to cause -- microcephaly, a birth defect that causes newborns to have small heads and other neurological disorders. Last week, two U.S. women suffered miscarriages after being infected with the Zika virus while traveling abroad, according to CDC officials.
But risk to those in Mississippi is low, officials stressed. There have so far been no reported cases in the state.
Zika can be spread through sexual contact, however.
"Mississippians are not at risk for becoming infected with this virus unless they travel. Pregnant women should avoid travel to these countries," State Epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Dobbs said.
The health department also advised women who are pregnant, or could become pregnant, to either use a condom during all sexual contact or avoid it altogether with any men who recently visited a country with a Zika outbreak. There is not yet any treatment for or vaccine against Zika.
The health department advises all travelers to countries with outbreaks to take precautions, including using mosquito repellent with DEET, avoiding areas where mosquitoes are prevalent and wearing loose clothing to cover arms and legs.
Travelers returning from countries with ongoing Zika transmission should also take special precautions in Mississippi to avoid mosquito bites, which might transmit the virus to local mosquitoes.
Also, on Tuesday the Food and Drug Administration issued new guidelines for blood banks intended to help prevent the contamination of the nation's blood supply with the virus.
There have been no reports of the Zika virus entering the U.S. blood supply, but experts say it is most likely the infection can be transmitted via contaminated blood. Recently, two possible cases of transmission via blood transfusion were reported in Brazil.
There is not yet an FDA-licensed test to screen blood donations for Zika.
The New York Times, contributed to this report.