Zika virus is a mosquito-transmitted virus that generally causes no symptoms or mild illness, but is associated with birth defects in infants whose mothers get a Zika virus infection during pregnancy. The birth defect of note is microcephaly, which means small head or cranium.

In January of this year, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a health advisory, travel alert urging women who are pregnant to avoid countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Those who could be pregnant or are trying to conceive should consider this advisory as well, and if they choose to travel, they should strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip. While cases of Zika have been reported in the United States, as of January 2016 these are limited to patients who recently traveled to countries with Zika transmission. Transmission is not currently occurring in the US, but that could change in the future.

PERSONAL/CLINICAL CONSIDERATIONS:

  • How can I find out which countries have Zika Virus-carrying mosquitoes?

At Zika Information you can see a list of world regions, with listings of countries where Zika has been transmitted.

  • What if I’m not pregnant (or not a woman)? How worried should I be?

If you get a Zika infection, you may never realize that’s what it was. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital. There are actually a lot worse mosquito-borne infections, like Malaria.

  • Is there a shot or a medicine I can get to protect me?

There is no vaccine invented yet, but stay posted! There are some really great scientists out there, and we can hope that someone will have a breakthrough. In the 1970s there was an outbreak of Rubella virus that caused a lot of birth defects, and on a larger scale than Zika. This was one factor that led to the development of the MMR vaccine which has saved millions of lives. Get your routine vaccines!

  • How do I avoid mosquito bites?

Here are some tips. Wear long sleeves. Stay indoors where there are screens and air conditioning. Use mosquito repellent and reapply as often as directed. Do not apply mosquito repellent under clothes, and apply after putting on your sun screen.

  • What mosquito repellents can I use in pregnancy?

All EPA approved repellents are considered safe. Some are more “natural” than others, but not necessarily safer. Those that contain DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 last longer than most others.

Sources and further reading:

http://www.acog.org/About-ACOG/ACOG-Departments/Zika-Virus#WomenAndPatients

http://www.cdc.gov/zika/disease-qa.html


 
written by
Matthew Wilson, MD, FACOG
Riverton Obstetrics and Gynecology