CDC has new questions about 39-state salmonella outbreak

Health officials have new questions about a deadly salmonella outbreak that has sickened nearly 900 people nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said this week.

Since the beginning of July, the CDC says 888 people in 39 states have been affected by the outbreak, which has been blamed on contaminated cucumbers that were imported from Mexico.

The outbreak has killed at least four people and sent 191 people to the hospital, the CDC said.

After an investigation, Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce and Custom Produce Sales each initiated cucumber recalls in the first half of September as a result of possible contamination.

However, the CDC’s latest update on the outbreak said 106 people have fallen ill after Sept. 24, when all of the recalled cucumbers should have been either off the shelves or spoiled. That includes 50 people who have gotten sick since Nov. 19, when the CDC last issued an update.

The CDC said an investigation into the new illnesses is ongoing, and officials are trying to determine if cross-contamination from the recalled cucumbers could be to blame.

The organization is encouraging anyone who might have bought or sold recalled cucumbers to wash and sanitize drawers, shelves, crates or reusable grocery bags where the vegetables were stored.

The CDC has not yet determined any other food item that could be causing people to get sick.

Illnesses have been reported in every state except Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Jersey, Delaware, Michigan, West Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi.

While the rate of reported illnesses has dropped since the recalls were issued, the CDC says it’s still above what is expected for this time of year. And the latest update indicated one person got sick in Tennessee, a state that had not previously reported any illnesses tied to the outbreak.

Salmonella usually triggers a mild illness that can cause fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps, the CDC says, and most people recover within a week without any treatment. But children, older adults and those with weak immune symptoms are particularly at risk of severe infections.

According to the CDC, an estimated 1.2 million people in the United States get sick from salmonella every year. About 19,000 of them are hospitalized and about 450 of them die.

California has reported the most illnesses tied to this outbreak, with 241 people getting sick there. The CDC said that three of them died, though salmonella likely wasn’t a factor in two cases. The outbreak is also being blamed for one death apiece in Arizona, Oklahoma and Texas.

Man who allegedly gave hacked personal info to Islamic State appears in court

A man accused of hacking the personal information of more than 1,300 federal employees and military members and releasing them to the Islamic State made his first appearance in a United States court on Wednesday, prosecutors said.

Ardit Ferizi, a 20-year-old Kosovo citizen, faces charges related to terrorism, hacking and identity theft, the Department of Justice said in a statement.

Ferizi was living in Malaysia last October when local law enforcement detained him at the United States’ request, prosecutors said. He later waived extradition.

According to a criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Ferizi is believed to be the leader of a Kosovar hacking group. He’s accused of hacking a United States-based online retailer’s server, stealing the personal information of about 100,000 people and then sending the data of 1,351 military personnel and federal employees to members of the Islamic State.

A pro-Islamic State Twitter account posted a link to the information in August, prosecutors allege, and “names, e-mail addresses, e-mail passwords, locations and phone numbers” of the 1,351 employees were visible in a 30-page document that included a warning message.

According to the complaint, part of the document stated: “we are in your emails and computer systems, watching and recording your every move, we have your names and addresses, we are in your emails and social media accounts, we are extracting confidential data and passing on your personal information to the soldiers of the khilafah, who soon with the permission of Allah will strike at your necks in your own lands!”

Court records indicate charges against Ferizi include providing material support to the Islamic State, unauthorized access to a computer and aggravated identity theft.

If convicted, prosecutors said he could face up to 35 years in prison.

“As alleged, Ardit Ferizi is a terrorist hacker who provided material support to ISIL by stealing the personally identifiable information of U.S. service members and federal employees and providing it to ISIL for use against those employees,” Assistant Attorney General John P. Carlin said in a statement released after Ferizi was arrested in October. “This case is a first of its kind and, with these charges, we seek to hold Ferizi accountable for his theft of this information and his role in ISIL’s targeting of U.S. government employees.”

Ferizi is the latest individual who has been charged with Islamic State-related crimes in the United States. In December, a report from George Washington University’s Program on Extremism said at least 71 individuals were accused of such offenses since March 2014.

Zika reported in travelers who returned to California, Arkansas and Virginia

Travelers who recently returned to California, Arkansas and Virginia from foreign countries have tested positive for the Zika virus, health officials in those states announced Tuesday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains that there haven’t been any people who have contracted the mosquito-borne virus in the United States, though there have been several cases where travelers got infected overseas and brought the virus back with them.

Zika is collecting the attention of public health officials because scientists are studying a possible link between the virus and a rare condition called microcephaly, in which children are born with smaller-than-usual heads. The birth defect can also be caused by other factors, the CDC says.

Still, the CDC has issued travel notices for 22 countries or territories where Zika is currently being spread, urging pregnant women to consider postponing any planned travel to those areas and asking all would-be travelers to “practice enhanced precautions” to prevent mosquito bites.

The three cases announced Tuesday all involved foreign travel.

In a statement, the Virginia Department of Health said the infection was confirmed in “an adult resident of Virginia who recently traveled to a country where Zika virus transmission is ongoing,” but did not elaborate. The infected individual was the state’s first imported Zika case, but isn’t at risk of transmitting the virus because it isn’t currently mosquito season in Virginia.

The Arkansas Department of Health said one of the state’s residents “recently traveled out of the country and had a mild case of Zika.” Officials confirmed the diagnosis late Monday afternoon.

“Arkansas has the kind of mosquitoes that carry Zika virus, so mosquitoes here in Arkansas can become infected with the virus if they bite someone who has Zika,” Dr. Nate Smith, the Arkansas Department of Health Director and State Health Officer, said in a statement. “For this reason, people traveling to countries with Zika should avoid mosquito bites for 10 days after they return.”

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said an adolescent girl who traveled to El Salvador last November was the county’s lone confirmed case of Zika, but she has recovered.

“At this time, local transmission is unlikely,” the department said in a statement. “It would require an Aedes mosquito biting a Zika infected person and then biting others.”

The CDC says only about 20 percent of people who are infected with Zika become ill and develop symptoms like fever, rash and joint pain. Most people fully recover from the illness in a week.

The possible link between Zika and microcephaly is a key component of the travel warnings.

The Brazilian Ministry of Health has investigated more than 4,100 microcephaly cases in the past 13 months, according to data released Wednesday. The ministry used to see fewer than 200 cases of the condition every year, though the numbers have surged since Zika arrived in May.

The Hawaii Department of Health has said a child who was recently born with microcephaly there had been infected with Zika, and his mother likely got the virus when she lived in Brazil.

The CDC says it will also be conducting a study to examine a possible link between Zika and Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a nerve disorder than can lead to muscle weakness and paralysis. Many fully recover from the syndrome, the CDC says, though it can be fatal in rare instances.

The World Health Organization is holding an information session on Zika tomorrow.

The organization says it’s possible the virus could cause epidemics in new areas it reaches because people don’t have immunity to it. There’s also currently no vaccine to prevent it.

Milwaukee man arrested for machine gun possession allegedly planned mass shooting

Authorities foiled a 23-year-old Milwaukee man’s alleged plans to commit a deadly mass shooting at a Masonic temple in the city, prosecutors announced Tuesday afternoon.

Samy Mohamed Hamzeh was charged with possessing machine guns and a silencer, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin said in a news release.

Prosecutors said that law enforcement had been investigating Hamzeh since September, and that he had been communicating with two confidential sources since October.

Prosecutors allege Hamzeh toured the temple with those sources on January 19, and later discussed plans to use machine guns and silencers to kill dozens of people there. Hamzeh allegedly told the sources the event “will be known all over the world” and jihadists “will be proud of us.”

Prosecutors allege Hamzeh had been planning to travel to Jordan and attack Israeli soldiers and citizens in the West Bank, but ditched those plans and shifted his focus to the United States.

He was arrested after allegedly purchasing two automatic weapons and a silencer from undercover FBI agents on Monday, according to the news release.

In a statement, Robert J. Shields, the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Milwaukee office, said the arrest thwarted “an attack that could have resulted in significant injury and/or loss of life.”

An FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force was involved in the investigation.

The news release includes several comments that Hamzeh allegedly told the sources during their recorded conversations, in which he explained his goals and strategies for the attack.

He allegedly said that one of the three of them needed to guard the temple’s main door and “spray anyone he finds” while others went upstairs to “spray everyone” in a meeting.

“We will shoot them, kill them and get out,” he allegedly said, according to the release. “We will walk and walk, after a while, we will be covered as if it is cold, and we’ll take the covers off and dump them in a corner and keep on walking, as if nothing happened, as if everything is normal. But one has to stand on the door, because if no one stood at the door, people will be going in and out, if people came in from outside and found out what is going on, everything is busted.”

Hamzeh also allegedly told the sources that “we will eliminate everyone,” prosecutors said.

“Thirty is excellent,” Hamzeh allegedly commented to the sources. “If I got out, after killing thirty people, I will be happy 100%. … 100% happy, because these 30 will terrify the world.”

‘Doomsday Clock’ countdown still at 3 minutes to midnight, closest since 1984

The countdown to global catastrophe remained at three minutes to midnight, scientists announced Tuesday, warning the planet was still perilously close to experiencing a disaster.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which sets the hands of a metaphorical Doomsday Clock, announced the countdown would stay at the position it reached last year. It’s the closest the clock has been to midnight, or a catastrophic event, since the height of the Cold War in 1984.

The nonprofit determines the clock’s position after analyzing threats to human existence, particularly nuclear weapons and climate change. Only once have the hands ever been closer to midnight, a seven-year stretch during the 1950s following the world’s first hydrogen bomb tests.

In a statement, the Bulletin hailed the Iran nuclear deal and Paris Agreement on climate change, both of which were approved last year, as “major diplomatic achievements,” though said they “constitute only small bright spots in a darker world situation full of potential for catastrophe.”

The Bulletin said the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the formal name for the deal that restricts Iran’s ability to develop atomic weapons, was overshadowed by rising tensions between Russia and the United States, both of whom are modernizing their nuclear arsenals, and the fact that China, Pakistan, India and North Korea are working to bolster their atomic capabilities.

The Bulletin called the Paris Agreement, a pledge signed by nearly 200 countries that aims to reduce carbon emissions and keep global temperatures from reaching long-feared levels, another important development. But the scientists noted it’s still not clear exactly how the nations will meet that goal, and the agreement was signed during the hottest year on record.

The scientists also cited ongoing conflicts in the Ukraine and Syria in their statement.

“The world situation remains highly threatening to humanity, and decisive action to reduce the danger posed by nuclear weapons and climate change is urgently required,” the Bulletin said.

The Bulletin was founded in 1945 by scientists who helped builds the world’s first atomic bomb. It established the Doomsday Clock two years later, and decides where to set its hands each year.

The clock can be moved back if the global outlook improves, and moved up if it worsens.

The closest the clock has ever been to midnight was from 1953-59, when the Bulletin said the world was only two minutes from doomsday following the hydrogen bomb tests. Conversely, the clock reached a record 17 minutes to midnight from 1991-94 after the Cold War subsided.

The clock was set at five minutes to midnight in 2012, but the Bulletin adjusted it last year because of climate change and nuclear weapons. In Tuesday’s statement, the Bulletin expressed “dismay” that world leaders had still not taken more aggressive steps to address those issues.

“When we call these dangers existential, that is exactly what we mean: They threaten the very existence of civilization and therefore should be the first order of business for leaders who care about their constituents and their countries,” the Bulletin said in its statement.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons echoed those calls.

“The Bulletin’s warning should be taken seriously by world leaders,” the campaign’s executive director, Beatrice Fihn, said in a statement.“The risk of use of nuclear weapons is on the rise. If a nuclear weapon was detonated, the effects would be devastating and the international community would be unable to cope with the aftermath. The status quo is no longer an option.”

Islamic State possibly planning more attacks in Europe, Europol warns

The Islamic State is believed to be planning additional terrorist attacks against targets in France and the European Union, according to a new report from the union’s law enforcement agency.

Europol issued a public report on the Islamic State on Monday, writing “there is every reason to expect” the organization, or those inspired by it, would carry out another attack. The agency also wrote there’s a chance of attacks from lone-actor terrorists, or other religiously inspired groups.

The report, which does not mention a specific future terrorist threat, draws its conclusions from a meeting of more than 50 counterterrorism officials from throughout the European Union. The discussions were held November 30 and December 1, a little more than two weeks after the Islamic State killed 130 people during Nov. 13 terrorist attacks at various locations across Paris.

The report highlights what Europol believes is an adjustment in the Islamic State’s game plan.

It indicates the Paris attacks, as well as the investigation into them, “appear to indicate a shift towards a broader strategy of (the Islamic State) going global,” and evidence suggests the group is planning “special forces style attacks” in foreign countries. It warns of the possibility of additional attacks against France, or other European Union nations, “in the near future.”

It was released the same day that Europol opened its European Counter Terrorism Centre in The Hague, Netherlands. In a news release announcing the opening, Europol said the continent “is currently facing the most significant terrorist threat in over 10 years,” and the center would help officials share terrorism intelligence and coordinate responses to any potential acts of violence.

The report offers insight into Europol’s intelligence on the Islamic State’s recruitment, training, financing and planning methods.

It addresses public fears that terrorists are exploiting the ongoing migrant crisis to enter Europe, in some cases posing as refugees to get into the union undetected. The report says there is “no concrete evidence” that terrorists are systematically using the refugee system that way, though acknowledged it’s possible some Syrian refugees “may be vulnerable” to radicalization.

The report also outlines how quickly the Islamic State can recruit foreigners — particularly younger people, who can be more impressionable and vulnerable. It indicates 20 percent or more of the Islamic State’s foreign fighters had been diagnosed with a mental problem before joining the group, and up to 80 percent of the foreign fighters had some kind of criminal record.

Europol’s report indicated that attacks aren’t necessarily coordinated from Syria, an Islamic State stronghold, and that the leaders of local cells are given “tactical freedom” to make adjustments as they see fit. It notes the Islamic State’s documented ability to “strike at will,” but noted the group has a preference for attacking soft targets — those unable to defend themselves — to kill as many people as possible.

The report noted similarities between the Paris attacks and attacks against Mumbai in 2008, as both had comparable targets, weapons and death tolls.

Europol says cyber attacks or plots against power grids or similar targets “is currently not a priority” for the Islamic State, though the report indicates it’s possible the organization could pursue “cyber-attacks targeting critical infrastructures and state security” against Western nations in the future.

Cleanup from historic winter storm expected to last days

An exceptionally powerful and reportedly deadly winter storm that brought historic snowfall totals to large portions of the mid-Atlantic and New England finally moved out to sea on Sunday evening, though the fallout from the winter weather was still being felt on Monday morning.

The National Weather Service reported parts of six states received more than 30 inches of snow, including a whopping storm-high total of 42 inches near Glengary, West Virginia. Another seven states saw at least a foot of snow, and five states experienced wind gusts that exceeded 60 mph.

There were conflicting media reports on the death toll, though Reuters reported 31 people died.

Schools in several states remained closed on Monday as the cleanup process continued. The National Weather Service’s office for Baltimore and Washington, where some of the storm’s record totals were posted, said it would likely take several days to clear all roads and sidewalks.

The Weather Channel is referring to the storm as Winter Storm Jonas.

Record snow totals were seen in parts of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland, the National Weather Service said, and in some cases the previous marks were obliterated.

The service reported that Lehigh Valley International Airport in Allentown, Pennsylvania, saw 31.9 inches of snow in two days, including 30.2 on Saturday alone. The previous single-day and two-day records were 7.7 inches and 25.6 inches, respectively, and records dated back to 1922.

The service noted that Allentown usually only sees 32.9 inches of snow in a year, meaning the recent storm came within three-tenths of an inch of exceeding the region’s yearly snow total.

The storm also set snowfall records in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, (30.2 inches total, 26.4 inches on Saturday), Baltimore-Washington International Airport (25.5 inches on Saturday), JFK International Airport in New York (30.3 inches on Saturday), Laguardia Airport in New York (27.9 inches on Saturday), and Newark, New Jersey, (27.5 inches on Saturday), the service reported.

More than 8,000 United States flights were cancelled on Friday and Saturday, according to flight monitoring website, a large percentage of them in the areas impacted by the storm. Another 1,509 U.S. flights were cancelled as of noon ET on Monday, the site reported.

Cities or airports that didn’t quite see record amounts were still busy digging out from the snow.

More than 22 inches of snow fell in Washington, the National Weather Service reported, and the city’s suburbs saw between 19 and 39 inches. The Office of Personnel Management said all federal government offices were closed Monday, and the city’s public schools were also closed.

In West Virginia, where the storm’s highest snow totals were posted, the state Department of Education reported that schools were closed entirely in more than 50 of the state’s 55 counties.

The storm also created hazardous travel conditions, in some cases stranding motorists.

In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf’s office reported that two trucks jackknifed while trying to climb a mountainous stretch of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, blocking traffic behind them. According to a news release, 250 first responders helped evacuate the motorists, and authorities also set up warming stations, passed out food and gave away gas to allow cars to remain warm.

The Virginia State Police responded to 1,410 crashes and 2,040 disabled vehicle calls between Friday and Sunday morning, according to a Twitter post. The agency reported five people in the state died from hypothermia.

Dole recalls packaged salads after multi-state listeria outbreak

Dole is temporarily shutting down one of its production facilities and recalling all of the salads that were made there because the facility has been linked to a multi-state outbreak of listeria.

The recall notice was posted on the Food and Drug Administration website on Friday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has been investigating the outbreak, said 12 people in six states have been hospitalized since July. One person died.

The CDC determined that salads produced and packaged at Dole’s facility in Springfield, Ohio, were likely behind the illnesses. Dole initiated the recall and decided to temporarily suspend production at the facility “out of an abundance of caution,” according to the recall notice.

The salads in question were sold under a variety of different brand names — including Dole, Fresh Selections, Simple Truth, Marketside, The Little Salad Bar and President’s Choice, the CDC said. However, they all have the letter ‘A’ at the beginning of a product code that appears on the upper-right-hand corner of the package, according to Dole’s recall notice.

Dole said none of its other products or facilities are affected by the recall, and added that packaged salads that have ‘B’ or ‘N’ at the start of their product codes aren’t being recalled. Those salads were produced at different facilities, and the CDC added that it doesn’t currently have any evidence suggesting those salads are linked to the outbreak.

Dole said the recalled salads were sold in Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin, as well as the Canadian provinces of Ontario, New Brunswick and Quebec.

The company encouraged consumers and stores who still have packaged salads with product codes beginning with ‘A’ to throw them out without eating them.

According to the CDC, listeria is a bacteria that can lead to listeriosis, a rare but life-threatening condition that is often contracted by eating contaminated food. The organization estimates that listeriosis sickens about 1,600 people annually in the United States, killing about 260 of them.

Newborns, older adults people with weak immune systems and pregnant women are generally at risk, the CDC says, and the bacteria can lead to miscarriages or stillbirths. Common symptoms include fever and muscle aches, though the disease can also cause convulsions in certain people.

This particular outbreak sickened people in Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, according to the CDC, and killed a person from Michigan.

TSA discovers record number of firearms in carry-on bags

Nearly 2,200 people attempted to bring loaded firearms through airport security checkpoints in the United States last year, the Transportation Security Administration announced Thursday.

The discoveries were part of a record number of firearms that TSA officials found in carry-on bags at airport checkpoints across the country, the administration said in its year-end report.

The TSA said it found an all-time high of 2,653 firearms in carry-on bags in 2015, and 2,198 of those weapons were loaded. The number of loaded firearms discovered almost equals the 2,212 loaded and unloaded firearms that TSA officers found in 2014, the former record number.

Travelers aren’t allowed to pack weapons in carry-on bags, but the TSA reports seeing a significant rise in the number of firearms it finds while screening the bags at checkpoints.

Officers found just 660 firearms in 2005, yet that has more than quadrupled in the years since. There was a 20 percent increase in the number of firearms discovered between 2014 and 2015.

TSA Administrator Peter V. Neffenger issued a statement on the discoveries, saying better training has helped officers become “more adept at intercepting these prohibited items.”

The statement didn’t address if there were any other potential factors for the increase, such as a possible rise in the number of people who were trying to fly with weapons in their carry-on bags.

Travelers can transport firearms in their checked bags, the TSA says, but the guns must be unloaded and properly packed. Travelers also must inform the airline that the luggage contains a firearm.

Still, the TSA said it’s finding the firearms in carry-ons at more airports — 236 last year, up 12 from 2014.

TSA officers at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport found more firearms in carry-on bags than their counterparts at any other airport, the TSA said, with 153 discoveries in total. Officers at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (144) and Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (100) each recorded 100 or more discoveries.

Denver International Airport (90), Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (73), Nashville International Airport (59), Seattle-Tacoma International (59), Dallas Love Field Airport (57), Austin-Bergstrom International (54) and William P. Hobby Airport (52) rounded out the top 10, the TSA reported. Five of the top 10 airports with the most firearm discoveries are located in Texas.

The discoveries came the same year amid a troubling year for the TSA.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson removed the administration’s former acting administrator, Melvin Carraway, from his post in June after the Inspector General’s office conducted tests in which auditors tried to bring prohibited items through security checkpoints.

Inspector General John Roth testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in November, saying the results of their most recent tests yielded “disappointing and troubling” results.

“Our testing was designed to test checkpoint operations in real world conditions. It was not designed to test specific, discrete segments of checkpoint operations, but rather the system as a whole,” Roth told the committee. “The failures included failures in the technology, failures in TSA procedures, and human error. We found layers of security simply missing.”

Johnson issued a variety of new directives after receiving the preliminary test results in an effort to boost airport security and correct some of the shortcomings the auditors identified.

CDC issues more travel notices about Zika virus

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday issued more travel notices about the Zika virus, warning travelers about the potential risks of the mosquito-borne illness.

The notices were issued one week after the CDC advised pregnant women who were planning to travel to 14 countries and territories where outbreaks of the virus were occurring to consider postponing their trips while scientists probe a potential tie between Zika and a rare birth defect.

The notices issued Friday added eight additional countries or territories to the list, bringing the total to 22. The warnings are spread throughout the globe and include places in South America, the Caribbean, Central America, Polynesia and more.

Travelers heading to those areas are asked to “practice enhanced precautions” to prevent mosquito bites, which is how the virus is spread. Pregnant women are advised to rethink their travel plans because of Zika’s potential impact on their unborn children.

Last week, the Hawaii Department of Health announced a child born with microcephaly — a birth defect marked by a smaller-than-usual head — had previously been infected with Zika. The department said his mother likely contracted the virus when she was living in Brazil last May.

The Brazilian Ministry of Health reports that there have been 3,893 cases of microcephaly in the country since the virus arrived in May. The country used to see fewer than 200 cases per year.

Children with microcephaly can develop seizures, vision problems and have developmental delays, the CDC says, but it only occurs in 2 to 12 out of every 10,000 births in the United States.

Scientists are still trying to find a conclusive link between Zika and microcephaly, which can be caused by several other factors. Last week, Dr. Lyle Petersen, the director of CDC’s division of vector-borne diseases, told a news briefing the CDC had “the strongest scientific evidence to date” of a link between Zika and “poor pregnancy outcomes,” though more tests were needed.

Still, the warnings and advice for pregnant women continue. Earlier this week, the CDC issued new guidelines about how healthcare providers in the United States should care for pregnant women who had traveled or were planning to travel to areas where Zika was being transmitted.

Only about 1 in 5 people infected with the virus display any signs of illness, the CDC says, and symptoms are generally mild. They include fever, rash and joint pain, and most people recover within a week. The illness is seldom severe and rarely requires hospitalization.

There haven’t been any reports of people contracting the virus in the United States, the CDC says, though there have been some instances where travelers got bit by infected mosquitos overseas and returned home. The mosquitos that transmit Zika are found in the United States, though Dr. Petersen told the news briefing it’s unclear exactly how or if the virus may spread here.

He told reporters the country has seen improvements in anti-mosquito measures, like using air conditioning and window and door screens, which have helped reduce the spread of other mosquito-borne illnesses, like dengue and malaria, in the past. The CDC encourages all travelers to Zika-prone areas to sleep in screened or air-conditioned rooms, as well as wear long clothing and insect repellant, as there is no vaccine or medicine that can currently prevent an infection.

Countries and territories where the CDC has issued travel notices for Zika include Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, Barbados, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, Saint Martin, Samoa, Cape Verde, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Mexico and Puerto Rico.