What expecting mothers need to know about Zika Virus

If you’re pregnant or trying to conceive, then the Zika virus is something you should be concerned about for a good reason – it can have serious health consequences for both the mother and the child.

What is Zika?

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus, which means it is spread by infected mosquitoes. People who are at the highest risk of getting the Zika virus are those who live or travel in areas with active Zika transmission. 

The virus has spread to nearly 100 countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and the Pacific Islands.

How is the Zika virus transmitted?

The virus is primarily transmitted through the bite of infected mosquitoes. According to the CDC, it can also be transmitted sexually through oral, vaginal, or anal intercourse.

If you are pregnant, you can transmit the virus to your baby during birth or pregnancy. 

What are the health effects and risks of Zika infection during pregnancy?

Zika infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects and other pregnancy problems.

A possible consequence of the Zika infection during pregnancy is microcephaly. It’s a birth defect in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age.

Babies born with microcephaly may end up with developmental issues due to their smaller brains. 

Although rare, Zika infection may also lead to Guillan-Barre syndrome. It’s an autoimmune disorder on which one’s immune system attacks and damages the nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and even paralysis. 

What are the symptoms of Zika infection?

The symptoms of Zika infection are similar to the flu – low-grade fever, rash, headache, muscle and joint pain, and conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye).

Can Zika infection be prevented?

If you’re pregnant or planning to conceive, it’s important to be very cautious when having sex with a partner who has traveled to an area with an active Zika outbreak. To reduce the risk of transmission, you may use condoms or abstain entirely.

When it comes to travel, you may want to delay your plans if you’re heading to an area with Zika outbreak. If traveling can’t be avoided, take every precaution to avoid mosquito bites. This includes:

  • Wearing long sleeves and pants
  • Using bug spray with DEET
  • Avoiding areas with free-standing water
  • Treating your clothes with permethrin (it’s a type of insecticide)

If you have more questions about the Zika virus and precautionary measures during pregnancy, you may schedule an appointment with our OB-GYN by calling (405) 360-1264.