Are you worried about the Zika Virus? If you aren’t pregnant – or married to someone who is – there’s almost nothing to worry about. Zika virus is very rarely more serious than a few days of feeling under the weather and achy – as if you have a run-of-the-mill flu or virus.
However, if you are pregnant or planning to be in the near future, we advise that you exercise awareness and a hefty dose of caution. Unfortunately, the Zika virus, which is transmitted by mosquitos, has been known to cause unborn babies to develop certain neurological defects – most prominently macrocephaly.
Zika Virus Basics
Until recently, the Zika virus was largely isolated to the equatorial regions of Africa and Asia. It is a mosquito-borne virus, carried by a mosquito species Aedes aegypti. Recently, patients with Zika started showing up in South America as well, predominantly in Brazil. This put the global healthcare community on alert, especially when there was an increase of babies with macrocephaly born to women who had the Zika virus during their pregnancy.
Now, it’s important to get the word out about the virus, and how you can protect yourself if you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant soon.
Individuals infected by the virus experience zero symptoms, or a mild range of flu-like symptoms, including:
- Joint pain
- Red eyes (conjunctivitis)
- Body aches
The symptoms develop within a few days to a week or so of being bitten, and they only last for a week at the most. For this reason, most people with Zika never even visit the doctor or the hospital because their symptoms are so mild, or they never have any symptoms at all.
Protect Yourself from Contracting Zika
Women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant can protect themselves from contracting the Zika virus by:
Canceling travel to areas with active mosquito-borne Zika activity
The best way to avoid getting Zika at this point in time is to avoid traveling to areas of the world with active mosquito-borne Zika activity. This list continues to grow, but includes equatorial areas of African and Asia, along with much of South America.
Visit the CDC’s List of Areas with Zika to keep abreast of the most current information. If your partner is traveling to these countries, careful precaution must be taken. The virus can live in semen and, thus, can also be transmitted by a male partner to his female partner. If your partner is unable to cancel travel, he should wear mosquito repellant at all times while he is there, use a mosquito net, and use a condom for at least the first several weeks after her returns just to be on the safe side.
Wear a Condom if Your Partner Traveled to a Country on the CDC’s Active Zika List
While transmission is most common from a mosquito to his/her host, there have been cases where Zika was spread from a man to his partner via sexual intercourse. This is because the Zika virus lives longer in semen than it does in blood. So far, in all cases, the male partner experienced symptoms of Zika, however, experts know of at least one case where the virus was transmitted from a man to his partner several days before symptoms developed.
For this reason, we want to reiterate the importance of using a condom if your partner has traveled to a country on the CDC Active Zika Watchlist to err on the side of caution. Using a condom for several weeks to a month after his return will ensure you and your baby are safe.
Contact Your Doctor Immediately If You Feel You’ve Been Exposed
If you are pregnant, and you feel you may have been exposed to the Zika virus, contact your OB/GYN immediately. Both blood and urine tests can be used to determine whether or not you have it. If you do, your doctor will want to take more specialized care of you and your baby, monitoring your baby’s development more closely than normal.
Unfortunately, at this point in time, there are many unknowns when it comes to in-utero Zika virus exposure, how often it does or does not result in birth defects, and so on. Researchers are working hard and fast to find answers to these questions. You can visit the CDC’s Zika & Pregnancy page for more information.
Feel free to contact us here at Overlake, or schedule an appointment with your OB/GYN if you’re concerned you might be affected by the Zika virus during your pregnancy. We’re here to provide peace of mind and top quality prenatal care for you and your family.