Zika and Maternal Health

Zika and Maternal Health

Zika and Maternal Health

Microcephaly, a word most of us, up until a few weeks ago had never heard of before.  A seemingly un-common and rare condition caused by the Zika virus has created a panic in the Americas, especially for women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.  Microcephaly is a birth defect that makes a baby’s head smaller than normal which results in a smaller brain and can result in permanent developmental problems.  What makes this virus particularly concerning is how it is transmitted, via mosquitoes; those annoying pesky insects that before had very rarely caused us much harm.

Zika is found in the Aedes aegypti mosquito and can be spread by getting bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus or when a person infected gets bitten by a mosquito and then bites someone else.

Aedes_aegypti_feeding

Aedes aegypti mosquito- source

And even more alarming is that the Zika virus is also found in body fluids and can be transmitted through sexual intercourse as one case in Dallas, Texas revealed last week.  Medical professionals in affected areas are recommending that pregnant women refrain from having sex until the baby is born, or NOT to have un-protected sex with your partner.

Symptoms for the virus are mild. Flu-like symptoms similar to Dengue fever include rash, fever and joint pain.  Only 1 in 5 people infected by the Zika virus will become ill, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  There is no medicine to treat Zika and no vaccine to prevent it.  Prevention guidelines include, wearing long sleeved clothing, including long pants, using approved insect repellents as laid out by the US. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which I may add is particularly concerning for pregnant and nursing mothers.  Speak to your health care professional regarding insect repellents and proper application of them.  Women in developing countries where Zika has been found are being told to delay having children and women that are pregnant are advised not to travel to affected areas.

Pregnant women naturally worry and have concerns about the health and safety of their newborn, adding this scary global epidemic to the picture is enough to through your joyful and peaceful pregnancy out the window.  Here’s the good news, according to a New York Times, global health report, non-pregnant women who get the virus and recover from it, become immune and can have a baby safely in the future.  There have been very few cases reported in the US so far, and it is possible to safeguard yourself and your baby by following the above mentioned recommendations including, not travelling to other highly affected areas.  Also, make sure you speak to your health care professionals about your concerns; both your OBGYN and Pediatrician can guide you effectively.  

Love & Hugs,

Bianca

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