The Fetal Health Foundation continues to receive inquiries about the Zika virus and a possible connection to a fetal condition, microcephaly.   Dr. Anna G. Euser is coordinating the Zika virus efforts for Maternal-Fetal Medicine Doctors at the Colorado Institute for Maternal and Fetal Health.  Dr. Euser has provided key information that may answer your questions.  We’ll continue to update this post as Dr. Euser shares new information.

UPDATE   April 12, 2016 

Planning a Pregnancy After Travel to an Affected Area?

As of March 31st, there is updated advice for patients who are wondering about planning a pregnancy after travel to an affected area. If both partners are asymptomatic, the recommended waiting period (i.e. using condoms for intercourse) is 8 weeks from the time that you return from travel until you begin to try to get pregnant. Read about symptoms in the original post below.

 A New Checklist from the CDC for Pregnant Women Living in an Area with Zika.

Pregnant women in areas with Zika can print and bring this checklist to medical appointment to ensure the patient and her health care provider talk about these important questions.

“Zika virus can pass from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Zika is linked to microcephaly, a severe birth defect that signals a problem with brain development. If you are pregnant and living in an area with Zika, you should talk to your doctor or other healthcare provider about Zika, even if you don’t feel sick.”

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What is the Zika virus?

  • Zika virus is a flavivirus. This is the same family of viruses as West Nile virus and Dengue virus. It was first found in humans in 1968. The Zika virus was most likely introduced into Brazil in 2014, and has led to a wide epidemic that is still ongoing.
  • For a current list of places with the Zika virus, please see the CDC’s Travel Health Notices.

What are the symptoms of Zika virus?

20-30% of infected individuals will have a mild illness (fever, aches, red eyes, and rash) for several days to a week. Not everyone who is infected will have symptoms. The most serious consequences of the virus seem to be when a baby is infected during pregnancy.

How does the Zika virus spread?

  • Zika virus is transmitted to people through mosquito bites. The most common mosquitos that transmit this virus are Aedes mosquitos.
  • At this time, there is no evidence that this species of mosquito is in Colorado.
  • There are areas of the United States where this mosquito does live.  There have not been, however, any known cases of local transmission of Zika virus in the United States.
  • A mother can transmit Zika virus to her baby during pregnancy.
  • There have been a few reports of sexual transmission of Zika virus.

Who is at risk?

  • Women who have traveled to affected areas during their current pregnancy
  • Due to some evidence of sexual transmission, women with partners who have traveled to affected areas during this pregnancy may also be at risk
  • For a current list of places with the Zika virus, please see the CDC’s Travel Health Notices.
  • At this time, there is no evidence that a past infection will impact a future pregnancy. However, if a couple is actively trying to get pregnant, they may consider avoiding travel to affected areas.

If you do travel and are bitten by a Aedes mosquito we don’t know:

  • How likely you are to get Zika
  • How likely it is that the virus will infect your baby
  • How likely it is that the baby will develop birth defects from the infection

Because of these gaps in our knowledge, we do not know if there is a safe time during your pregnancy to travel to an area with Zika.

What are the current CDC guidelines?

  • Pregnant women should strongly consider delaying travel to areas where the Zika virus is spreading.
  • If you must travel to these areas, speak with your provider and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during your trip.
  • If you have a male sexual partner who lives in or has traveled to an area with Zika, either abstain from sex or use condoms consistently and correctly during your pregnancy.

What should you do if you or your partner has traveled to an affected area?

  • Make an appointment to speak with your OB provider to help you decide if you should have blood testing and ultrasound testing. Your provider may decide to start this testing in their office or to refer you to a high-risk pregnancy doctor.  (These doctors are sometimes called Perinatologists or Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialists.)
  • Blood tests should be done if you have traveled in the last 12 weeks. These tests must be sent to the CDC along with specific paperwork, so you need to be seen by a provider along with the blood draw.
  • Ultrasound testing should be able to identify microcephaly (small head size), the birth defect that may be associated with Zika virus transmission to babies during pregnancy. However, when these changes (that we may be able to see with ultrasound exams) occur during pregnancy is not yet known.

Are there any treatments for Zika virus?

  • Currently, we don’t have a vaccine or any specific treatments for Zika virus.
  • We hope that as research continues we may learn more about other factors that may influence the risk of Zika virus during pregnancy.

Does your provider have questions?

If your provider has questions, they are encouraged to contact local High-Risk Pregnancy physicians with further questions.

 

The CDC infographics below are another source of good information

Pregnant? Read This Before Your Travel

Protecting Yourself From Mosquito Bites When You are Pregnant

 

The information about Zika virus in pregnancy continues to change weekly.  The CDC website has great information for both patients and providers and is constantly being updated as we learn more.

 

 

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