What You Should Know About the Zika Virus If Are Trying to Conceive or Could Be Pregnant
The Zika virus is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito and can cause a person to be sick up to a month. Zika can have serious consequences for a fetus if the mother is infected while pregnant. Zika infection during pregnancy can also cause pregnancy loss or a birth defect called microcephaly. Zika virus may also cause infertility in men. If you are trying to conceive, it’s important that you understand the Zika virus, the illness it causes, and the risks it can bring to you, your partner, and your baby.
How the Zika Virus is Transmitted:
a) Mosquito Bites
The Zika virus is initially transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. These are the same mosquitoes that spread other viruses such as chikungunya and dengue. These types of mosquitoes lay their eggs near standing water. The mosquitos will bite anytime during the day or night, but are most aggressive during the day. These mosquitoes become infected when they bite a person who is already infected with the Zika virus.
b) Mother to Child
A pregnant woman can pass the Zika virus to her baby while she is pregnant. The Zika virus during pregnancy can cause a miscarriage, the brain defect called microcephaly, and other severe fetal brain conditions. Studies are currently underway to gain a deeper understanding on why and how the Zika virus causes these conditions.
c) Sexual Intercourse
Zika can be transmitted during sexual intercourse even if the infected person doesn’t have any symptoms at the time. Studies are underway to determine how long Zika virus stays in semen and vaginal fluids and how long it can be transmitted. So far, research has determined that Zika virus can remain in semen longer than any other bodily fluids.
d) Blood Transfusion
There have been reports of blood transfusion transmission in Brazil of the Zika virus. So far, no cases of blood transfusion in the United States have been reported.
e) Laboratory Settings
There have been a few observed cases of transmission of the Zika virus through contact in a laboratory environment. One of these was reported in the U.S.
Symptoms of Zika Virus Infection
Most people won’t even know when and if they are infected with the Zika virus. Most people only have mild symptoms. Here’s what to look for:
• Red eyes
• Skin rash
• Muscle and/or joint pain
Impact on Fertility
The Zika virus can be deadly to a fetus and can cause serious birth defects. If you’ve travelled to an area where the Zika virus is found, or your partner has, you should consider getting tested for the disease within two weeks of suspected exposure and then tested again at 8 weeks after exposure to rule out the possibility you are infected. You should not attempt to conceive until you have a negative Zika virus test.
Men who are traveling to an area where the Zika virus is present are encouraged to freeze sperm before their trip.
How Zika Virus Can Affect an Unborn Baby
Zika infection during pregnancy can have serious consequences for your unborn baby. Infection can lead to Congenital Zika Syndrome, which is a pattern of conditions that affects an unborn baby. This syndrome can include one or more of the following conditions:
• Microcephaly, which causes a smaller than normal head size
• Brain development problems
• Difficulty swallowing and other feeding problems
• Loss of hearing
• Vision problems
• Contractures, which is a problem with joint movement
• Body movement restriction caused by muscle tone problems
Areas Known to Have the Zika Virus
The Zika virus has been found in the following geographic locations:
• Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, Florida
• Brownsville, Texas
• Puerto Rico
• All parts of Mexico
• Almost all parts of South America
• Most of Central Africa
• Papua new Guinea
• Solomon Islands
• Christmas Islands
• And many other areas in the Far East
The complete map of world areas that are at risk for the Zika virus can be found here: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/world-map-areas-with-zika
How Can You Protect Yourself From the Zika Virus?
Here’s how you can protect yourself from the conditions caused by the Zika virus:
a. Avoid traveling to Zika virus infected areas.
b. If you live in an infected area, or must travel to one, take precautions to protect yourself. Learn more how to protect yourself here: https://www.cdc.gov/zika/prevention/prevent-mosquito-bites.html.
c. Women with ongoing risk of exposure who are trying to conceive should use condoms whenever having a sexual intercourse.
d. Women who have possibly been exposed to the Zika virus should wait at least 8 weeks before trying to conceive.
e. Men who have possibly been exposed to the virus should wait at least 6 months before trying to conceive.
f. All women who become pregnant that have traveled to a Zika virus region or live in those regions should be evaluated for Zika virus infection.
g. If you have a partner that lives or has traveled to an infected area and you may or are pregnant, use condoms whenever you have sex to prevent infection during sexual intercourse for the duration of the pregnancy.
If you suspect you have been exposed to the Zika virus and you think you might be pregnant, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
How Opionato Can Help You
If you live in an area where Zika virus is present or plan to travel to a Zika area and are worried how best to protect, test, or inform yourself, please contact one of Opionato experts who can provide you with a personal plan approach on next steps before conception or your planned travel. Opionato can be reached by calling (877) 455-6153 or by emailing at [email protected]
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