Pregnant women are testing positive for the mosquito borne illness known as Zika Virus. To be extra safe, expectant mothers are urged to seek out accurate and up-to-date information before traveling. The Zika Virus is dangerous to mothers and their unborn children because the virus can be passed on from the mother to her baby during pregnancy. The Zika Virus belongs to a genus of viruses in the Flaviviridae family. Therefore, the Zika Virus is related to a class of viruses which could cause a potentially life threatening condition called encephalitis. Besides the Zika Virus, the Flaviviridae family class of viruses includes viruses like the West Nile virus,
There are currently no antivirals available for viruses like the Zika Virus. There are also no vaccines or known cures for the Zika Virus. There are a few precautions pregnant women and women trying to get pregnant should take in light of the Zika Virus outbreak. Women should avoid travelling to areas that are heavily affected by the Zika Virus such as Latin America. In the case that they already live there or need to travel- women should wear EPA approved mosquito repellent, keep skin completely covered, and avoid mosquito bites by staying indoors.
The Zika Virus is a probably this year’s scariest virus, particularly for expectant mothers, due to its detrimental effects on unborn babies. To illustrate, researchers have found alarming evidence linking the virus to a startling rise in babies born with abnormally small heads and brain defects.
Microcephaly is a congenital condition associated with abnormal brain development. This up rise in birth defects and abnormally small heads, a condition known as microcephaly, has mainly been spreading throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Zika Virus spreads through zika-carrying mosquitoes. However, there have been recent cases where the virus may have been sexually transmitted.
The Zika Virus originated in parts of Africa and South East Asia. Haphazardly, this past year more than 1.5 million have been infected as the virus spread to Latin America, the Caribbean, and Mexico. By the end of 2015, there have even been incidents of Zika Virus spreading to American soil. In response, the World Health Organization has declared this virus a public health emergency and outbreak in an effort to reduce the risk of further international spread.
Due to this public health emergency, if you are an expectant mother your primary concern should be to avoid this mosquito-borne illness at all costs. For this reason, unnecessary travel to any region currently under outbreak of the Zika Virus is not recommended for pregnant women. It’s also not recommended for couples actively trying to conceive. All in all, travel to any area where the Zika Virus is actively spreading should be postponed.
Zika Virus is currently active in 25 countries. If you are pregnant and travel is unavoidable, then you should continually refer to the Center for Disease Control’s Zika Travel Information webpage for the most up to date travel recommendations. You should also strictly follow all proper precautions to prevent mosquito bites throughout your travels.
On another note, pregnant women who have already traveled to any region inflicted with Zika Virus should immediately consult with their healthcare providers, even if they aren’t showing symptoms. The symptoms of Zika Virus generally includes fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes. However, symptoms can be mild thereby going completely unnoticed. To play it safe, be sure to visit your doctor within 2 weeks after returning from any area with Zika Virus.
To learn more about the risks of Zika Virus during pregnancy or to receive a check-up please schedule your appointment at Anthony C. Quartell, M.D. & Associates by calling 973.716.9600.