If you’re pregnant, odds are you’re concerned about the Zika Virus. Spread by the Aedes species of mosquito, Zika virus is rarely serious or fatal, but can cause pregnancy complications and serious side effects for developing fetuses. Unfortunately, women who become ill with the Zika virus are at higher risk for having babies with microcephaly and other severe, fetal brain birth defects.
It is important to note that the Zika virus is not airborne, so you cannot contract it the same way you contract the average cold or flu. The only way to contract Zika at this time is via mosquito bite or having sexual contact with a man who test positive. There is also an extremely small chance of contracting the Zika virus via blood transfusion, but this is extremely unlikely if you are living here in the United States.
Back in February, we posted an article titled, “How the Zika Virus Might Affect You and Your Travel Plans.” We recommend reading that to review information about the virus, as well as its potential symptoms and side effects.
However, there have been several updates since then so we are posting this update to shed new light on the situation.
Schedule Travel Plans If You Are Pregnant
Zika has been identified in more countries over the course of the last several months. Currently, the only Zika Virus cases identified in the U.S. have been in individuals who traveled to a country listed on the CDC’s Zika virus watch list. However, experts do feel the Zika virus will continue to spread to other countries since the Aedes mosquito is found all over the globe and global travel makes it easy for an unknowing Zika Virus carrier to bring it home with them.
For now, the CDC recommends that pregnant women cancel any travel plans that involve countries where Zika Virus has been reported and continues to spread. We recommend reviewing the CDC’s Zika Travel Information Page before traveling anywhere outside the United States. If you are pregnant and your plans cannot be changed, you must take every precaution possible to prevent getting a mosquito bite, including:
- Wearing long clothes.
- Using insect repellant on all exposed body parts.
- Sleeping in mosquito netting.
- Remaining indoors and in air conditioned locations as much as possible.
You can review the CDC’s Mosquito Bite Prevention page for more details and recommendations for preventing mosquito bites.
As of today’s post, the CDC has reported 591 travel-associated cases of Zika Virus in the United States, and 11 cases that were thought to be contracted via sexual contact with an infected individual.
Use Condoms if Your Partner Contracts Zika or Travels To Countries Where Zika Virus is Spreading
In addition to mosquito bites, the Zika virus is found in both blood and semen, although it lives longer in semen. So, in addition to mosquito bites, it can also be contracted through sexual contact with males who are infected. In the majority of women who contracted Zika from their partner via sexual contact, the men displayed symptoms of the virus. However, there is one case where the Zika virus was contracted a few days before the male carrier experienced any side effects.
As such, the CDC recommends using condoms if you have sex with a male who has traveled to a country that where Zika Virus is known to be spreading. Also, it may be wise to use mosquito bite prevention as well since there is a chance a mosquito could bite him, and then you, and potentially spread the virus that way.
There Is No Vaccine or Treatment for the Zika Virus
Currently, there is no vaccine, pill or treatment available to prevent the transmission of the Zika Virus. It is imperative that pregnant women take extra care this summer season to prevent mosquito bites. Again, wearing long sleeves, applying insect repellant or essential oils known to repel biting insects and remaining indoors and in an air conditioned environment is your best protection against obtaining mosquito bites.
Speak With Your Healthcare Provider
If you are pregnant, are planning to travel outside the U.S. this summer or fall, have a partner who has or will be traveling to a country on the CDC’s Zika Watchlist – or you feel you may have contracted the virus – schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider as soon as possible to discuss screening options and to review potential threats and preventative measures.