Are you at risk from Zika virus? Here's what you need to know.

Ob-Gyn Associates and Advantia Health are concerned about your welfare and safety.  Due to the recent outbreak of Zika virus, we urge all of our patients and their families to avoid travel to countries and areas affected by this dangerous disease.

Where is Zika virus found?

Zika virus is a mosquito transmitted virus that has been found in 27 countries, mostly in Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Mexico.  As of the date of this article, there have been 35 documented cases of travel-associated Zika virus in the United States -- all of these patients contracted the disease while outside of the continental United States. There has also been one documented case of sexually transmitted Zika virus in the United States.

What are the symptoms of Zika virus?

According to the CDC, only 20% of patients become symptomatic.  Most of the time, the symptoms are mild. The most common symptoms include: fever, rash, headache, vomiting, joint/muscle pain, and red eyes. The symptoms usually present about 3-5 days after infection and last up to 7 days.  Severe disease or hospitalization is uncommon.

Are pregnant women and unborn babies at risk?

The Zika virus can spread from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby. There have been several documented cases of infants born with a birth defect of the brain called microcephaly. There is still ongoing research being done to determine the exact connection between Zika virus and microcephaly.

Because of this increased risk to the fetus, pregnant women with a history of travel to a Zika affected area should be tested for Zika virus.  If a patient tests positive, they will be monitored closely with ultrasound exams. In addition, consultation with maternal fetal medicine and infectious disease doctors is recommended.

There is no current evidence that the virus poses a risk of birth defects in future pregnancies.

How can you get tested for Zika virus?

Testing for Zika virus involves specialized blood testing. If you are pregnant and have traveled to a Zika affected region, you should call your doctor to arrange for testing. The blood is drawn in your doctor’s office. The sample will then go to a specialized lab for analysis.

During your visit, you will be asked questions regarding your travel dates, destinations, and symptoms (if any). This information is then passed on to the Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control who are in charge of testing the specimens and tracking the virus.

Is there a treatment for Zika virus?

Currently, there is no specific antiviral treatment or vaccine available.  For this reason, the CDC is recommending that all pregnant women or women planning a pregnancy postpone travel to areas of transmission. If you must travel to an area which has been affected by the Zika virus, please take the proper precautions. These include:

  1. Wearing long sleeve shirts and pants
  2. Using EPA registered insect repellent
  3. Using permethrin treated clothing
  4. Staying in screened-in or air conditioned rooms

In addition, because sexual transmission has been documented, men who have traveled to Zika affected countries and have a pregnant partner should avoid having intercourse or routinely use condoms during sex for the duration of the pregnancy.

You can find additional information on the CDC website: www.cdc.gov/zika/

We want all of our patients to be safe and have healthy newborns!