As you have probably heard about in the news, the Zika virus continues to spread. While the virus has been predominantly found in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, it has recently been reported in Brazil and now in the Americas. Because the mosquitos that spread the disease are found worldwide, the disease will most likely continue to spread. Here are 5 important things to know about the Zika Virus:
- The Zika virus is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito.> While the virus has not been reported in the continential United States, many areas of the US have the kind of mosquitos that can carry the virus. These mosquitos tend to be aggressive and will bite during the nighttime as well as during daytime.
- The best way to prevent Zika is to prevent mosquito bites. Use insect repellents at all times when there is a possibility of being bitten. EPA registered insect repellants have been proven safe when used as directed, even for pregnant and breast feeding women. However, do not use insect repellents on children under 2 months old. Instead, make sure their arms and legs are covered and cover their crib or stroller with mosquito netting. You can protect yourself as well by wearing long sleeves and pants and making sure that all open windows are covered with a screen to keep mosquitos out.
- The Zika virus can cause birth defects, if contracted during pregnancy. This virus can pass from mother to fetus during pregnancy. There have been reports of microcephaly, a serious birth defect, in babies born to mothers who were infected with Zika during pregnancy. Microcephaly is a condition in which a baby’s head is significantly smaller than expected, often due to abnormal brain development. Because of the risk to their unborn child, pregnant women should strictly adhere to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines found here: http://www.cdc.gov/travel/page/avoid-bug-bites.
- Women who are pregnant should avoid traveling to areas where the disease has been reported. Currently it is advisable for women who are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant or undergoing fertility treatment avoid travel to those areas where the Zika disease is spreading. If you must travel to one of the areas, check with your health care provider and follow the guidelines for preventing mosquito bites. If you have a male partner who lives or has traveled to one of the areas, do not have sex or use a condom during your pregnancy.
- Infected travelers returning to the United States can spread the virus through mosquito bites. The Zika virus can be found in the blood during the first week of infection. If a mosquito bites an infected person, the possibility exists for the same, now infected mosquito(the mosquito must live long enough to allow the virus to multiply), to bite someone else, thereby spreading the virus.
- If you are planning to get pregnant, please keep in mind that the Zika virus can last up to 6 months in semen, so if your male partner has been infected you must wait at least that long before trying to conceive.