Zika Virus Information
What to Know When Considering Pregnancy
If a woman becomes infected anytime during pregnancy by the Zika Virus there is a risk her fetus can have major birth defects such as microcephaly (small head and severe brain damage). The precise likelihood of a fetus developing microcephaly from an infected mother is not known but could be as high as 13% (especially when Zika Virus infection occurs in the first trimester).
How is Zika contracted?
- A bite from a mosquito that carries the virus. Zika-infested areas currently include the Caribbean, Central America, Brazil, and Fiji. In late July 2016 Miami-Dade County, Florida had some cases of mosquito-borne transmission of Zika but subsequent increased mosquito control measures have likely lowered the risk of spread.
- Sexual contact (genital, oral, anal) with a man or a woman. Transmission from a man could occur up to 6 months following his infectious exposure as it can be harbored longer in semen. Transmission from a woman is thought to occur only up to 2 months later.
Symptoms of Zika
These symptoms can last up to a week and include:
• Fever (<102)
• Itchy pink skin rash
• Bloodshot eyes
• Joint pain
4 out of 5 people infected show no symptoms and very rarely (less than 1 in 4,000 cases) an infected person develops a transient paralysis, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, which might require hospitalization.
How to Protect Yourself:
Wear long sleeves, pants and socks.
Use ample insect repellent that contains DEET.
Stay indoors with screens on any open doors or windows.
Avoiding Contracting Zika
• If you can, avoid travel to areas with known infected mosquitos. See CDC website.
• Avoid unprotected intercourse with someone who has traveled to areas known for Zika for 2 months.
• If your male partner has traveled to a Zika-infested area, then avoid sex or use protection for 6 months following when symptoms start or the last possible exposure.
• Avoid becoming pregnant for 2 months following return from Zika-infested area.
• Men can consider freezing sperm prior to traveling to Zika-infested areas.
Who should get tested?
• All pregnant women who traveled to Zika-infested areas during pregnancy should get a blood test. If they test positive for the virus then they should have a series of fetal ultrasounds. Fetal brain damage has been detectable as early as 19 weeks pregnant.
• People exhibiting symptoms of Zika Virus within 3 weeks of travel to infested areas should get blood test.
• There is no medication or vaccine for Zika
Facts about Zika
• Zika Virus does NOT cause birth defects in pregnancies conceived AFTER the infection has resolved.
• Incubation period from exposure to infection is up to 14 days and virus can stay in the body up to 11 days. The 2 month recommendation for avoiding pregnancy is to allow an extra margin of safety.
• Once an individual recovers from Zika, they will likely be immune for life.
• Eggs, sperm, and embryos are not permitted to be donated anonymously for fertility purposes if they are at risk of harboring the Zika Virus. Donors “at risk” are those who had lived or traveled to Zika-infested areas within the prior 6 months or had a sexual partner in the prior 6 months who was at risk of Zika Virus.