If you’re pregnant the Zika virus is probably got you worried, and with good reason. The virus, which is spread by mosquitoes, is all over the news with its scary consequences for pregnant women and their babies.
Cases in the United States are from travelers returning from affected countries. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), mosquitoes in mainland United States (and Hawaii) have not spread Zika. But lab tests have confirmed the Zika virus in travelers returning home to the U.S. Those travelers got infected from mosquito bites, and some non-travelers got it through sex with a traveler.
Here’s what you need to know about the Zika virus:
What’s dangerous about it?
In pregnant women, the effects of Zika are disturbing, and can make a pregnant woman miscarry or cause their baby to be born with an abnormally small head and brain. Babies infected may also have seizures, delays developmentally, and retardation.
How does the virus spread?
Zika is usually spread through being bitten by an infected mosquito. When the mosquito bites and draws blood from someone who’s infected by Zika, the insect is then infected and goes on to bite others. Zika is also transmitted sexually, from a woman to her baby during pregnancy, or at the time of birth.
What are the symptoms?
A Zika infection feels like a mild case of the flu, so it might be symptoms like a slight fever, headache, rash, muscle and joint pain, and pink eye. According to the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the CDC, only 20% of people infected will actually become sick.
How do I cut my risk of getting Zika?
Be really cautious about having sex with someone who’s traveled to a region affected by Zika. Use condoms to reduce the risk of being infected, or cut out sex entirely for the whole time you’re pregnant.
There’s no vaccine for Zika right now, but you can cut your risk by following these tips to avoid mosquito bites:
- Wear long-sleeve shirts with and pants (avoid wearing shorts or shorter skirts)
- Use bug spray with DEET (it’s considered safe for pregnant women)
- Treat your clothing with a type of insecticide called permethrin
- Don’t travel to these countries: American Samoa, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Cape Verde, Colombia, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico—US Territory, Costa Rica, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Martin, Samoa, Suriname, Tonga, South Virgin Islands, or Venezuela.
Visit the CDC’s travel information site for updates to this list of countries. And, make sure to talk to your doctor about your concerns over the Zika virus and pregnancy.