Should I Be Worried about the Zika Virus?

Fears in the United States about the Zika virus first made waves in the spring of 2016 and increased substantially by early summer of that year. It’s been almost two years since then, but that doesn’t mean concerns about the virus are no longer relevant, especially for women who are already pregnant or will try to conceive in the near future.

What is the Zika virus?
The Zika virus is mainly transmitted via mosquito bites, but an infected individual can also transmit the virus through intercourse. Symptoms of the virus can include fever, chills, joint pain, sweating, red eyes, rash, vomiting, and/or headaches. These are usually quite mild and can be treated at home with rest and over-the-counter medication. However, if you suspect you are infected with the Zika virus, you should still seek a proper medical diagnosis to ensure appropriate treatment.

So, if symptoms are mild, why are people so concerned? The reason medical professionals firmly warn against contracting the virus is mostly in regard to pregnancy. Pregnant women who contract the virus can pass it to their unborn child. The virus is strongly linked to a very serious birth defect called microcephaly. Microcephaly means the size of a baby’s head is much smaller than average. Cases of brain development issues, or brain damage, are also linked to Zika.

Who should actively avoid the Zika virus?
The CDC warns against traveling to countries with active Zika outbreaks. These can change often, so it is up to those traveling to check with the CDC’s website for potential outbreak issues. Those with the most to risk from transmission include women who are currently pregnant or those trying for a pregnancy during their travels. You are encouraged to discuss travel plans with your doctor prior to departure, especially if pregnancy or potential pregnancy is a factor.

How do I avoid the Zika virus?
Though difficult to guarantee, there are ways to avoid the Zika virus. Avoiding travel to areas where Zika is present is key, but you can also:

  • Use proper contraception with a partner if he or she has recently traveled to a Zika-affected region.
  • Wear clothing that completely covers your neck, arms, and legs, when possible.
  • Stay indoors when possible.
  • Use insect repellant, and check to ensure the repellant you are using is safe for pregnancy, if appropriate.
  • Avoid areas with standing water such as lakes and ponds, as mosquitos tend to gather there.

Do you have questions about the Zika virus? Please contact the providers of PWOG today.

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