Zika Virus and Your Unborn Child
The Zika virus is a single-stranded RNA virus of the Flaviviridae family, genus Flavivirus. The virus is transmitted to humans primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito-Aedes species. The mosquito is an aggressive daytime biter and feeds both indoors and outdoors near dwellings. Both humans and animals and human-to-vector-to-human transmission occur during outbreaks.
The cause for alarm is women for who are pregnant and infants as Zika can be passed during pregnancy putting the child at risk for a possible congenital infection and neurologic abnormalities. The Zika virus has also been diagnosed via sexual transmission and blood transmissions. Zika has also been found in asymptomatic blood donors during an ongoing epidemic.
Zika virus disease has become a nationally notifiable condition in 2016. Healthcare providers are encouraged to report cases to local state, and the state is encouraged to report laboratory-confirmed cases to the CDC.
1 in 5 people can be infected with Zika virus and will become ill the most common symptoms of Zika are:
- Fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes)
- Muscle pain and headache
- Incubation period is approximately a few days to a week.
- Illness will last for a couple of days to a week
- The virus will remain in your blood a few days
- Hospitalization is uncommon
- Deaths are rare
See your doctor if you develop the symptoms or have traveled recently. Your doctor may see it prudent to order blood tests to look for Zika or other similar viruses like dengue or chikungunya.
Safe Sex Guidelines
The World Health Organization’s safe sex guidelines for those who are returning from Zika-affected areas recommends doubling the abstinence time from having sex; the initially suggested four weeks to eight weeks. Scientists have come to this conclusion from finding that the Zika Virus lingers longer in blood and other bodily fluids than previously thought. To ensure your partner’s safety and the safety of a potential pregnancy, seriously consider the following recommendations.
- If you and your partner are trying to get pregnant, it’s crucial that you consider delaying pregnancy until the recommended abstinence time has passed.
- If the male partner in a couple is planning pregnancy has symptoms of the Zika Virus, the period of abstinence is increased to six months.
- Evidence points to male semen as the source of transmission between partners. It is important to practice safe sex by using a condom if your partner is currently pregnant or abstain from sex altogether for the remainder of the pregnancy.
- Tests are still inconclusive as to how long the Zika Virus stays in the saliva.
- For those living in Zika zones, it is important to continue your use of insect repellents such as DEET, covering up, and stay inside as much as possible.
There is not a vaccine or medicine available at this point to prevent or treat Zika infections.
Treat the Symptoms
- Get plenty of rest
- Drink fluids to prevent dehydration
- Take an acetaminophen or paracetamol, to relieve fever and pain
- DO NOT take aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen and naproxen. Aspirin and NSAIDs should be avoided until ZIKA can be ruled out due to the cause of excess bleeding. If taking medicine for another medical condition, talk with your doctor before taking additional medication.
The key is to seek diagnosis promptly from a board-certified obstetrician if you are pregnant or have just given birth.
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