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The Zika Virus – 7 Facts Pregnant Women Need to Know

The Zika virus has been around for decades, however in May 2015, the first confirmed infection was reported in Brazil, South America. Previously the virus had not left the borders of Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. The World Health Organization declared this virus a public health emergency of international concern as of February of this year. However, there are steps you can take to keep yourself safe and protected.

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Symptoms

Symptoms of Zika Virus include fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes. Many do not know they have the virus, so it is important even if you are not experiencing all of these symptoms to see your doctor if you suspect you may have contracted it.

Microcephaly

This is a birth defect that has been found in pregnant women infected with the Zika virus in Brazil. Currently, scientists do not know definitively if it is the Zika virus that causes microcephaly, however, there is good evidence that this is the case. Other sources of microcephaly include: change in gene make-up, certain infections during pregnancy, and a woman being too close to or touching toxins during pregnancy. Microcephaly is a condition where a baby’s head is born much smaller than expected. This occurs because the brain either stopped growing during the pregnancy or stopped growing after birth. This condition can cause seizures, developmental delay and disability, problems with movement and balance, hearing loss, and vision problems.

Zika Virus

 

How infections happen

The primary way a pregnant woman is infected is through the bite of a mosquito, the virus is then passed to the baby in her womb during pregnancy or at delivery. Research currently does not know how likely a pregnant woman is to be infected with the Zika virus simply by being around another infected person, but it is best to avoid others infected with this for prevention.

Avoid travel to an area currently affected by the Zika virus

Zika virus has been confirmed in many areas in South America including Cape Verde, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama), the Pacific Islands, and South America specifically Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Suriname, and Venezuela. Pregnant women should avoid travel to those places and avoid contact with others who have traveled to these areas.

Prevent mosquito bites from occurring

Mosquito season is coming up quickly; the best way to avoid mosquito bites is to avoid times during the day when mosquitos are most likely to come out (right before sunrise and during sunset). In addition, wear long sleeves and long pants if you have to be outside, stay in places with air conditioning or screens keeping mosquitos from coming inside, stay away from standing water (where mosquitos are more likely to breed), and use EPA-registered insect repellants.

Zika can be sexually transmitted by your partner

Always use condoms if you plan to have intercourse with your partner or spouse if they have recently traveled to areas mentioned above that have confirmed cases of Zika Virus, or do not engage in sexual intercourse until your partner has been checked by a healthcare professional. Another possibility is for your partner to limit traveling to areas that have confirmed Zika virus infections until your baby is born. Prior to exposure to your or your baby, your partner should be checked by a doctor.

See your doctor.

If you are pregnant and have traveled anywhere the Zika Virus has been reported, you should see your doctor immediately to rule out the possibility of contracting the virus. It is always better to be safe.

 

 

Following these precautions and limiting your chance of exposure decreases your risks of contracting the Zika virus. If you ever are concerned or worried you may have contracted the virus, it is always best to visit your doctor’s office; having peace of mind is priceless.

 

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