Zika virus

Q: I’m pregnant. What can I do to protect myself against the Zika virus?

A: Zika virus disease has become an international health concern because of the multiple countries currently affected by the virus. 

Mexico, Central America and the northern two-thirds of South America are countries where the virus currently is causing infections. There’s no known vaccine to prevent infection and there’s no treatment for the disease.

The majority of people who get infected tend to have mild to no symptoms, which are primarily fever, rash, joint pain and/or conjunctivitis (red eyes). 

Acetaminophen is recommended for treatment of fever and/or body aches whereas ibuprofen, aspirin or naproxen are not.

Zika virus — which can be spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus — has been linked to a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly in which a baby’s head is smaller than normal.

Zika is generally spread by mosquito bites, although sexual transmission is also possible. If a mosquito bites someone in the first week of his or her illness and then bites another person, it can spread to that second person as well. 

Sexual contact with someone who’s recently returned from an area where Zika is found is also a risk and appropriate preventive measures should be taken. 

Infection during the first three months of a pregnancy seem to be the biggest risk for the developing fetus. There doesn’t seem to be nearly the same level of concern of infection at the end of pregnancy. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends pregnant women delay travel to areas with Zika, which can be found at cdc.gov