Zika Virus: What You Need to Know

All Countries and Territories with Active Zika Virus Transmission

With Zika virus all over the news, it is hard not to be concerned if you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant. The good news is, if you haven’t traveled to an affected country since your pregnancy, you can take a breath.

The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne illness, resulting in mild symptoms of fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (pink eye). Often people don’t even realize they’ve been infected.  However, it has been confirmed that the virus can have devastating effects on the fetus of pregnant women, causing serious birth defects and even fetal death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been NO confirmed incidents of mosquito-borne Zika in the United States. However, it has been confirmed that Zika can spread to women through unprotected sex with an infected male. The CDC also states that the virus “will continue to spread and it will be difficult to determine how and where the virus will spread over time.” It is therefore important for pregnant women, and women who are thinking about becoming pregnant, to understand the disease and its prevention.

The virus is currently a serious health emergency in several areas, including South America (particularly Brazil), Central America, the Carribean and some Pacific Islands. Therefore, the best way to prevent Zika is to avoid traveling to such areas, and to avoid having unprotected sex with men who have returned from these locations.

Whether Zika eventually spreads to the U.S. or not, it is wise to protect yourself and your children from mosquito bites, as mosquitos carry other diseases such as West Nile Virus. According to www.mosquitomagnet.com, mosquito season gets rolling in Eastern Oklahoma in May, and reaches it’s peak in July and August. However, mosquito season is dependent on temperatures, and any time the temps are above 50 degrees (as they often have been this winter/spring) mosquitoes can become active.

Here is what the CDC recommends to avoid mosquito bites:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Stay in places with air conditioning, or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
  • Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breast-feeding women.
    • Always follow the product label instructions.
    • Reapply insect repellent as directed.
    • Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.
    • If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.
  • If you have a baby or child:
    • Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months of age.
    • Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs, or cover crib, stroller, and baby carrier with mosquito netting.
    • Do not apply insect repellent onto a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, and cut or irritated skin.
    • Adults: Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.
  • Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated items.
  • Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings. See product information to learn how long the protection will last.
  • If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions carefully.
  • Do NOT use permethrin products directly on skin. They are intended to treat clothing.

The CDC also recommends that travelers returning to the United States from an area with Zika, even if they do not feel sick, should take steps to prevent mosquito bites for 3 weeks so they do not spread Zika to uninfected mosquitoes. Mosquitoes pick up the Zika virus from one person and spread it to the next.

For more information about avoiding mosquito and other insect bites visit my “Don’t Get Bugged” blog: http://doctorsood.com/2012/09/dont-get-bugged/.

Information is continually being updated about this emerging health crisis. To stay informed visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/.

Posted In General Pregnancy

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