Zika Virus: What Expectant Moms Want to Know
Zika virus has been a hot topic in the news recently, most notably for its potential to cause harm to unborn babies if infection is acquired during pregnancy. New information is coming out daily as the CDC and World Health Organization work to understand and contain Zika virus. Here’s what you need to know.
Zika virus is carried and transmitted by mosquitos. Originally found in Africa, the virus has recently been found in several countries in Central and South America. People may become infected with Zika virus if bitten by a mosquito that has the virus. At this point mosquitos in the U.S. do not carry the virus. Infections in the U.S. have all been related to travel. Zika causes only minor illness in adults. Only 1 in 5 adults with the virus becomes symptomatic, and the illness usually is mild — fever, rash, body aches and conjunctivitis (red eyes). However, if the virus is acquired by a mother during pregnancy, the infection may be passed congenitally to the infant, which has been linked to microcephaly and intracranial calcifications in the newborn. Microcephaly literally means small head or small brain, and can be associated with neurologic problems, including seizures and developmental delays in children.
The CDC has released recommendations for pregnant women or those wishing to become pregnant in the near future. The best recommendation, if possible, is to avoid travel to countries where the virus is found. These countries include Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and many others. Women are encouraged to consult with their doctor before traveling to Central or South America. If traveling, steps to prevent mosquito bites should be taken: wear long sleeve shirts, pants and hats to prevent skin exposure, use insect repellant, sleep in rooms with screens or air conditioning when possible, and use mosquito netting at night. If any symptoms of fever, rash, body aches or eye redness develop during or within 2 weeks of travel, you should contact your doctor. You may need a blood test to check for the virus or ultrasounds to monitor the baby’s growth.
***Joy Drass, M.D., F.A.A.P. sees patients at our newest location, Pediatric Alliance – Bloomfield, located in West Penn Hospital.