Zika virus is spread to people through the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Most people who are exposed have no symptoms. Concern is really for two populations: pregnant women who may transmit the virus to their unborn child which can lead to microcephaly and those few who may develop a temporary form of paralysis (Guillain–Barré syndrome) after exposure to the Zika virus.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes) within 2 weeks of exposure but only 1 in 5 infected individuals will have any symptoms at all.
Where is this Zika virus prevalent?
The current outbreaks are in Central America, South America and certain Caribbean countries including Puerto Rico. The CDC maintains an updated list of areas affected, so please check their website below prior to making any travel plans during your pregnancy.
Who is at risk of getting Zika virus in their pregnancy?
Women who are currently pregnant and travel to an area where Zika virus is prevalent are at risk for exposure during pregnancy. Transmission of Zika to the fetus has been documented in all trimesters. However if you are infected prior to pregnancy, there is no current data to suggest that you at risk of having birth defects associated with zika virus in a future pregnancy. Sexual transmission of Zika virus has been reported in a few cases through exposure to semen of males with Zika virus. If your partner has traveled to countries in which Zika is prevalent abstinence or condoms is recommended for at least 28 days.
What can happen when a pregnant woman gets Zika virus?
It can cause a neurological disorder called microcephaly- unusually small heads and often damaged brains. These children may experience developmental delays, intellectual deficits, hearing loss or even death.
How can we evaluate for Zika virus?
If you have traveled to an area where zika virus is prevalent during your pregnancy, you need to let your provider know immediately. Even if you have not experienced any symptoms of the zika virus you will need blood work to look for exposure and frequent ultrasound surveillance. There is no treatment or vaccine, but this will help your provider anticipate a pregnancy that may have been affected by the zika virus.
How can you prevent getting Zika virus?
We strongly encourage you to avoid areas where there is a zika outbreak, however if you are currently pregnant and plan on traveling to an area affected by the Zika virus you should take the following precautions:
-Cover exposed skin with long sleeves and pants
-Stay in air-conditioned or screened-in areas
-Use bug spray with DEET
-Treat clothing with permethrin