Zika took over the news headlines just over a year ago, and a few infected areas have grown into many, including some closer to home. With spring break around the corner, it’s time to check in on the latest updates from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and recent travel notices for pregnant women or couples trying to conceive.
Reason for CDC’s travel health notice
The CDC advises that pregnant women or women and men trying to conceive postpone travel to these destinations because the virus can transmit to the baby during pregnancy or delivery. 1
Experts have linked an increase in microcephaly, or abnormal smallness of the head, with the Zika virus. According the CDC, congenital Zika syndrome includes the following pattern of birth defects associated with babies infected during pregnancy.
The CDC is also investigating reports of a connection between Zika and Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS). GBS seems to be associated with Zika, but only a small percentage of people with Zika develop GBS.2
How Zika virus is contracted
The Zika virus can be contracted through the bite of a Zika-infected Aedes aegypti species mosquito. These mosquitos tend to be especially aggressive during daytime hours, but may also bite at night. When the mosquito bites a person with the virus, the virus enters the mosquito’s body and can then be transferred to the next person the mosquito bites.
Current research does not show transmission through breastfeeding. The Zika virus can also be transmitted through sexual intercourse, blood transfusions and laboratory exposure.3
Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment
The most common symptoms of Zika are a combination of fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes, although many people won’t experience symptoms. These symptoms typically appear within a few days to a week of infection, last about week and are mild in nature. If you notice symptoms or have traveled to an area with Zika, discuss this with your doctor, especially if you’re pregnant or plan to become a parent within the next six months. He or she may order blood tests to look for Zika or other similar viruses.
There is no vaccine to prevent Zika, but it can be treated with rest, hydration and if needed, over-the-counter pain relievers approved by your doctor.
At this time, there is no known treatment available to stop the virus from travelling from a mother to her unborn baby.
Zika infection and future pregnancies
According to the CDC, women who have had a Zika infection usually clear the virus within a week, and there is no evidence to suggest that a prior infection will pose a risk to future pregnancies. However, since the Zika virus remains in the body for at least a week, precautions must be taken to prevent the spread of Zika sexually.2
If travel to the affected areas is unavoidable, visit the CDC website to learn more about how to plan for travel and protect yourself from contracting the virus. link opens in a new window4 Common sense measures like using mosquito repellant and not exposing your skin will help, but keep in mind there is currently no vaccine available.
1 https://www.cdc.gov/zika/about/needtoknow.html.link opens in a new window
2 https://www.cdc.gov/zika/healtheffects/birth_defects.html.link opens in a new window
3 https://www.cdc.gov/zika/transmission/index.html.link opens in a new window
4 https://www.cdc.gov/zika/prevention/plan-for-travel.html.link opens in a new window