— -- The Zika virus outbreak continues spread throughout the Western Hemisphere, including in wide swaths of Central and South America, and concerns are growing for pregnant women because the mosquito-borne virus has been linked with a serious birth defect called microcephaly, characterized by an abnormally small head and brain.
Here are the latest updates about the outbreak, which the World Health Organization has deemed a "global health emergency."
China Reports First Case of Zika
China has reported its first diagnosis of the Zika virus in a man who traveled to Venezuela, according to the Associated Press.
The 34-year-old man was treated in Venezuela before returning through Hong Kong on Feb. 5. Authorities said it's unlikely the virus will spread due to low mosquito activity in the area, the AP reported.
Before the current outbreak, the Zika virus had been found previously in south Asia and the Pacific islands, including an outbreak in French Polynesia.
At Least 66 People Diagnosed With Zika in US
At least 66 people have been diagnosed with the Zika virus in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All cases were travel related except for one. In that case, the virus is believed to have been transmitted via sexual contact from an infected traveler to a partner.
On Tuesday, Delaware, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee reported their first cases of people diagnosed with Zika virus. In total, 19 states and Washington, D.C., have reported cases of the Zika virus.
Zika Virus May Be Linked to Infant Eye Abnormalities, Study Says
The Zika virus may be associated with another birth defect in infants, according to a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association Ophthalmology.
Researchers from Brazil found that some infants exposed to the virus had ocular defects, including atrophied retinas, abnormal iris pigmentation and lenses that moved out of place. The small study looked at just 28 Brazilian infants with the birth defect microcephaly, which is characterized by an abnormally small head and brain. They found that 10 of the infants had eye abnormalities that might be related to Zika virus exposure.
This study is the first to possibly connect the virus to eye abnormalities in newborns.
US Women's Soccer Team Weighs in on Zika Virus
Members of the U.S. Women's Soccer team expressed concerns about the Zika virus before being briefed on Tuesday on the ongoing outbreak, according to the Associated Press.
Coach Jill Ellis told reporters that there have already been multiple conversations about the viral outbreak before the briefing.
"I think at this point the focus is certainly we want to not distract from the performance piece. We haven't qualified, so talking about Rio right now for me is not something that's in my scope," Ellis said, according to the AP. "But I think we're certainly sensitive to the fact that this has become a global issue."
Soccer star Hope Solo told Sports Illustrated that she had serious concerns, and if she had to make the decision today she would not go.
"I would never take the risk of having an unhealthy child," she told the magazine. "I don't know when that day will come for Jerramy and me, but I personally reserve my right to have a healthy baby."
Medical experts do not believe there is a risk if a woman is infected and gets over the virus before she becomes pregnant.
What Does the Virus Do?
Common symptoms of the Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis, according to the CDC. Approximately one in five people infected with the virus show symptoms. Severe complications from the virus that require hospitalization are rare, according to the CDC.
The virus has also been associated with a rise of microcephaly birth defect cases.
The CDC is also investigating if a rare paralysis syndrome called Guillain-Barre is related to the virus. The syndrome is an immunological reaction that can also occur after other viral or bacterial infections.
How Is It Transmitted?
The virus is transmitted mainly through the bite of the Aedes aegypti species of mosquito. This is the same type of mosquito that spreads dengue fever. The Aedes albopictus species has also been identified as a potential carrier.
Before the current outbreak, the virus had been found mainly in tropical settings in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. An outbreak of the disease in Brazil led to an alert by the Pan American Health Organization last May.
Health officials have also reported rare cases of transmission through blood transfusions and through sexual contact, including one case in Dallas, Texas.