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The Zika Virus and Pregnancy
To date there are at least 106 travel-related cases of the Zika virus in the U.S. In these cases, individuals have traveled outside the U.S. to areas where mosquitos are spreading the virus, and have become infected. There are also possibly 14 U.S. cases of the virus that were sexually transmitted, according to the CDC.
Women who are trying to conceive, women who are pregnant and women who want to be pregnant should be aware that a pregnant woman can transmit the virus to her fetus. Microcephaly, a birth defect of the brain, has been reported in babies whose mothers had the Zika virus while pregnant.
Travel-associated Zika virus has been reported in 22 states by the CDC. Florida has the most number of cases (21), and Dr. Scott Roseff, a fertility doctor with South Florida Institute of Reproductive Medicine, gets questions daily from patients who are trying to conceive. “All of the [mosquito borne] cases in the U.S. are in people who traveled where Zika is considered an epidemic. It has not been contracted by mosquitoes in the U.S.,” he says.
None-the-less, women who are trying to conceive are concerned about mosquitoes. Roseff’s advice: avoid standing water, avoid wooded areas, restrict skin exposure with socks, long sleeve shirts and long pants and use a good quality DEET mosquito repellent. The EPA website lists recommended insect repellents.
While 80 percent of Zika cases have no symptoms, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis and low-grade fever may be indicative of the virus. Immediately contact your health care provider if you may have been exposed and experience those symptoms, Roseff advises.
According to the CDC, the virus can live in the blood for about one week and in the semen up to 62 days. Women who are trying to get pregnant or are pregnant should avoid travel to areas where there are outbreaks of the virus. If you are a woman whose male partner has traveled to an area outside the U.S. where Zika is transmitted, use latex condoms or abstain from sex to prevent transmission.
For up-to-date information about the Zika virus, visit the CDC website.