Suite 414 - 4123 Dutchmans Lane
Louisville, Kentucky 40207

502-897-2144

Revisiting Zika virus: What you need to know

Women who are pregnant or trying to conceive still at greatest risk

We all know that when the weather heats up, mosquitoes come out. These pests bring with them an increased risk of exposure to Zika virus. No cases of local transmission were reported in Kentucky or Indiana in the past year, but if you’re planning to travel south for summer vacation, you should take steps to minimize your chance of infection.

Pregnant women are still the most vulnerable group when it comes to Zika virus exposure. Prenatal Zika virus infection can occur at any time during pregnancy, and it has been linked to significant consequences for the fetus and newborn, including severe birth defects and even death. Women who are currently pregnant or planning to become pregnant in the near future should avoid traveling to areas where Zika virus has been reported.

For couples who are trying to conceive, it is important to note the latest research shows that Zika virus could stay in the body for quite a long time after exposure. So if you do have to travel to affected areas, we recommend you wait at least six months before you attempt to get pregnant to minimize your chances of transmitting the virus to your baby.

Facts about Zika

Zika virus can be transmitted in three ways: from mosquito bites; from human to human through intercourse and contact with other bodily fluids; and from mother to fetus during pregnancy. Zika is transmitted by the Aedes species of mosquito, which live in and around households and lay eggs in water-holding containers. They are mainly daytime, indoor biters, which is different than many other mosquitoes that bite at night and outdoors, such as the type that transmits malaria.

The first local mosquito-to-human transmission of Zika virus was reported in Brazil in May 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Since then, a total 5,274 Zika virus cases have been reported in the United States. Of those, 4,973 were reported in travelers returning from affected areas, and 224 cases were reported as local transmissions in Florida (218) and Texas (6). You can visit  www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/index.html for the most current information on reported Zika cases.

Preventing infection

Since there is currently no vaccine available to prevent Zika virus infection, minimizing your risk of mosquito bites is the best form of prevention.

If you plan to travel to affected areas, make sure you take the following precautions:

  • Use two forms of mosquito repellant — one for skin application and the other to treat clothing
  • Wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants
  • Stay indoors in air-conditioned and screened-in rooms whenever possible
  • Avoid areas where mosquitoes breed, such as standing water, ponds and bird baths

Symptoms, treatment and other precautions

Only about 20 percent of people infected with Zika virus show symptoms, and they are usually mild. The incubation period can be several days to two weeks. Symptoms are non-specific, which can make diagnosis more difficult, and may include fever, rash, joint pains, conjunctivitis, headache, nausea and vomiting. Symptoms can last up to one week and can be treated with supportive medication. There is no medicine specifically designed to treat Zika virus.

Zika virus may live in sperm for up to six months after exposure, so couples should wait at least that long after traveling to affected areas before engaging in unprotected sex. If you are diagnosed with Zika virus disease, you should also wait at least six months after the onset of illness to attempt to get pregnant. Men and women with possible exposure to Zika virus but without clinical illness should be tested for Zika immediately, and, if it is negative, retest again eight weeks later to rule out any infection.

If you have more questions about Zika virus and pregnancy, or if you feel you may have been exposed to it, call us at (502) 897-2144 to make an appointment.

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