The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is advising pregnant women to avoid travel to areas where Zika virus is present. The travel warning includes Central and South America, Puerto Rico, Caribbean islands and Mexico. While the majority of people who become infected with Zika virus only experience mild symptoms, catching the virus during pregnancy may cause serious birth defects to an unborn child. Dr. Michael Nix, Ascension Seton Obstetrician/Gynecologist, gives us the scoop on Zika—and five things every pregnant woman needs to know about the virus.
1. It spreads through the bite of a mosquito that carries the virus.
Zika virus is primarily spread through the bite of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. If a mother becomes infected during pregnancy, the virus can affect her unborn child.
2. Symptoms in most people are mild
Fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (pink eye) may be symptoms of Zika virus infection. These typically begin between two and seven days after being bitten by a mosquito that is carrying the virus.
3. Pregnant women who have traveled to areas in the travel warning need further evaluation from their health care provider
Talk with your doctor right away about your concerns to see if testing is necessary.
4. In unborn babies, Zika may cause serious birth defects
It has been known to cause a rare condition in newborns, called microcephaly, leaving them with smaller than normal brains and heads.
5. There is no vaccine or treatment for Zika virus, but it can be prevented.
The alarming part is there is no medicine or vaccine for it. Right now it’s best to avoid traveling to these endemic areas or delay your travel if you are pregnant. If you absolutely must travel to a country where Zika virus is present, be sure to wear long sleeves and long pants, stay and sleep in screened-in or air-conditioned homes, and use an insect repellent with DEET, picaridin, or IR3535. It’s completely safe to use these products during pregnancy and can help protect you from mosquitos which can carry Zika and other viruses.