Editor’s Note: Dr. Sheryl A. Ross will be apart of the LA Baby Show seminar “The Journey From Pregnancy To New Parenthood” on Sunday, November 6. Click HERE to learn more.
It seemed like it was just a matter of time this elusive virus would make its way to the United States. Now, Florida reports a number of cases which appears to be growing in size. In February 2016, Zika was declared a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” by the World Health Organization predicting the transmission to new counties will continue during the upcoming months to years.
How is Zika Transmitted?
The Zika virus is mainly spread by the Aedes aegypti female mosquito. Zika is transmitted to humans through a bit of an infected mosquito. This virus is also transmitted by a pregnant mother to her baby, by sexual intercourse (mainly male to female) and blood transfusions. Breastfeeding has not been proven to be a mode of transmission.
How Do You Know if You Are Infected with Zika?
This virus often has no clear symptoms which make Zika terrifying to pregnant women. Once infected it often takes 3 to 12 days for symptoms to appear. Eighty percent of people with the Zika virus have no symptoms. The other 20 percent may develop mild flu-like symptoms such as a low-grade fever, rash, headaches, joint pain and feeling tired which last for 2-7 days. Conjunctivitis is a characteristic sign of the Zika virus. If you have been infected with the Zika virus in the past, you will have future protection from getting another infection
What happens if you are infected with Zika while pregnant?
If you become infected with this virus during pregnancy, it has been associated with birth defects including a small, shrunken brain and malformed head known as microcephaly. Microcephaly can cause severe neurologic impairment to the baby.
If you are pregnant or trying to conceive and have traveled recently to an area high risk for the Zika virus, have had flu-like symptoms or not, you should have your blood tested to see if you have been exposed. For those pregnant women who had flu-like symptoms, serial Ultrasounds (US) would be performed by a specialist throughout the pregnancy. If the baby has any signs of microcephaly on US, an amniocentesis would be performed to see if the Zika virus is present.
How Do You Treat Zika?
Unfortunately there is not a specific antibiotic or medication to take to treat the mysterious Zika virus. Treating the symptoms associated with the Zika virus is advised. Getting plenty of rest and staying hydrated along with treating the fever and pain with acetaminophen is suggested.
How Do You Prevent Getting Infected With Zika?
There is no vaccine to prevent Zika transmission so prevention is key. The best ways to prevent the Zika virus is use mosquito repellents, wear protective clothing (long sleeves/ mosquito nets) and get rid of standing water outside where mosquito’s like to lay their eggs. If your male partner has traveled to an area high risk for Zika, he should wear a condom for 6 months if you are pregnant or trying to conceive.
It seems like month to month, updates are given to the public about the Zika virus. For the most current information about Zika outbreaks, where not to travel and other relevant information go to the CDC website. If you are trying to conceive definitely be aware of high risk places to avoid visiting. With this unpredictable virus it’s better to be safe than sorry!
Dr. Sheryl A. Ross is an award-winning OB-GYN, author, entrepreneur, and women’s health expert. Castle Connolly named her as a Top Doctor in the specialty of Obstetrics & Gynecology and selected her as a 2017 Southern California Super Doctor. As an advocate of women’s health, Dr. Ross takes the conversation about women’s health beyond the examining room in her upcoming book She-ology, Everything You Wanted To Know About The Vagina But Were Afraid To Ask (coming in January 2017).
Learn more about her at drsherry.com!