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What You Need To Know About The Zika Virus

Friday, Jan 29, 2016
Zika Virus

Media reports and travel alerts are stirring concern, especially among pregnant women, about this mosquito-borne illness. Find information from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) about the disease and suggestions by the ACOG (The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists).

What is the Zika virus?

Zika is a disease caused by Zika virus that is mainly spread to humans by a certain type of infected mosquito. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week.

What are the symptoms of Zika?

Zika usually doesn't cause any symptoms or may cause a mild illness (rash, fever, joint pain and conjunctivitis or "pink eye").

About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika will get sick. For people who get sick, the illness is usually mild.

How is Zika transmitted?

Zika is primarily transmitted through the bite of infected Aedes mosquitoes. It can also be transmitted from a pregnant mother to her baby during pregnancy or around the time of birth.

Who is at risk of being infected?

Anyone who is living in or traveling to an area where Zika virus is found who has not already been infected with Zika virus is at risk for infection, including pregnant women.

Where has Zika been found?

Currently, outbreaks are occurring in several countries in Central and South America. Please visit the CDC Travelers' Health site for the most updated information. According to the CDC, with the recent outbreaks, the number of Zika cases among travelers visiting or returning to the United States will likely increase.

Why are pregnant women concerned about Zika?

The Zika virus is associated with microcephaly (a birth defect in which the brain and head are smaller than normal) in infants whose mothers contract it during pregnancy. Currently, there is no vaccine or treatment for the infection.

What are the recommendations for women who are pregnant?

Please follow these ACOG (The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) recommendations for prevention of Zika virus infection while pregnant:

  • Pregnant women returning from regions where the Zika virus is circulating should be tested for the virus, regardless of whether they are symptomatic or not according to CDC recommendations.
  • Avoid exposure. Pregnant women should delay travel to areas where Zika outbreaks are ongoing when possible. Women considering pregnancy should discuss travel precautions with their obstetric providers. See CDC website for updated lists of affected countries.
  • When traveling to areas where Zika has been reported, take all precautions to avoid mosquito bites including the use of EPA-approved bug spray with DEET, covering exposed skin, staying in air-conditioned or screened-in areas, and wearing clothing treated with permethrin.
  • Note: When used as directed on the product label, EPA-registered insect repellents including those with DEET and permethrin can be used safely during pregnancy.
  • These protective measures should be followed both day and night as the mosquito that carries the Zika virus bites both during the day and at dusk and dawn. Reapply insect repellent as directed on the product label.
  • If you have traveled during your pregnancy to an area with ongoing Zika virus transmission, contact your obstetric provider for evaluation.
  • Although Zika virus has been reported in breast milk, it is in very small amounts. Infant infection (if it occurs) is likely to be mild. The benefits of breastfeeding likely outweigh any potential neonatal risks. Women are recommended to continue breastfeeding.

This is an evolving situation, please visit the CDC website for the most current information about Zika virus.

Pregnant women can view information specific to them on the CDC website.

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