Many women who are pregnant and traveling are concerned about the potential to contract the Zika virus. For many of my patients who express concern, I always tell them it is important to know what exactly the Zika virus is, the risks and what to do if either them or their partner has been exposed. Here are some of their most commons questions answered.
Zika: What Is It?
The Zika virus is a primarily viral disease that causes poor fetal outcomes in infected pregnant women. While mosquitoes are the primary carrier, it can also be sexually transmitted through semen or cross the placental barrier from a pregnant woman’s blood to her baby’s. Zika is associated with several days to a week of fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes.
This is not a new virus, but recently confirmed cases in Brazil, Mexico and countries in central and South America have caused the virus to gain national attention.
What Are the Risks?
Pregnant women infected with Zika are at risk of pregnancy loss, microcephaly (small fetal head), poor brain development, eye defects and impaired growth in their baby. In a recent study from Brazilpublished in The New England Journal of Medicine, 29 percent of women with known Zika had abnormal ultrasounds. For this reason, travel to known Zika-infected areas is not recommended during pregnancy.
If travel is absolutely necessary, talk to your healthcare provider and take measures to avoid mosquito exposure.
What If I Have Been Exposed?
Pregnant women with possible Zika exposure should have a blood test for the virus. If the test comes back positive, it is recommended the patient undergo serial ultrasounds to monitor fetal development throughout the remainder of her pregnancy. If the blood test is negative, a single fetal ultrasound to screen for Zika- consistent abnormalities is still recommended. If this ultrasound is abnormal, then another blood test will be sent for Zika, after which, if negative, will require no further testing.
It is not known how long Zika lives in sperm; therefore, men with possible Zika exposure should refrain from sex or use condoms throughout their partner’s pregnancy. In addition, couples considering conception should take certain precautions if they have been in a Zika area. Men with known Zika (or symptoms) should use condoms or abstain for six months before trying to conceive and women with known Zika (or symptoms) should wait at least eight weeks.
Additionally, men who have traveled to a known Zika area and have not developed symptoms should still wait at least eight weeks before trying to conceive with their partner.
For the most up to date information, refer to the CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/.
As with any pregnancy concerns, both your OB/GYN and primary care physician are always here to answer questions and discuss options. To schedule an appointment with myself or any of the Metropolitan OB/GYN staff, call 303-320-8499 or visit our website.
** This blog post was written to serve as informational guidance about the Zika virus and should not be taken as concrete medical advice, nor do the views above reflect the views of Metropolitan OB/GYN or the HealthONE organization. As with any medical questions or concerns, it is imperative to make an appointment with your physician for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Emily Prouse M.D. received a master’s in environmental management from Duke University, focusing her research on children’s environmental health. After realizing her true passion was in medicine, she went on to complete medical school at the University of North Carolina and received specialized training in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Washington in Seattle. She prides herself in the ability to form lasting, collaborative relationships with patients and assist them in making informed, healthy decisions about their care. A self-proclaimed foodie, she loves gardening, bringing her harvest to the table, and sharing meals with families and friends.