Pregnancy and Zika Virus

It doesn’t have to mean spending the summer indoors



Images of babies born with microcephaly caused by the Zika virus have pregnant women everywhere worried about the health of their unborn babies. What if they get bitten by a mosquito?

At press time, the only reported cases of Zika virus in the United States were in people who had traveled to countries where Zika virus is ongoing. As the number of travelers increases over the summer, imported cases likely will increase, which could result in local spread of the virus in some areas of the
United States.

The two types of mosquitoes that spread the Zika virus to people–the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus–can be found in Kansas and Missouri, but that doesn’t mean they are carrying the Zika virus. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on a person already infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes then can spread the virus to other people through bites. Even if they do not feel sick, travelers returning from an area with Zika should take steps to prevent mosquito bites for three weeks so they do not spread Zika to local, uninfected mosquitoes.

Because scientists do not know when during pregnancy the infection might cause harm to the fetus, pregnant women should take the following precautions to lower their risk of contracting the Zika virus:

  • Do not travel to places where Zika virus is ongoing. Zika virus can cause birth defects like microcephaly, eye defects, hearing loss and impaired growth. Before making travel plans, visit the CDC’s website for a list of affected countries: CDC.gov/zika/geo/active-countries.html.
  • The Zika virus can be transmitted sexually. If your partner has recently traveled to an area where Zika virus is ongoing, use a condom for the duration of your pregnancy or practice abstinence.
  • Empty and scrub out items that hold standing water in and around your home. Flower pots, birdbaths, gutters/downspouts, grill covers, kiddie pools, buckets, cans and discarded tires can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
  • Cover windows and doors with intact screens. Use your air conditioning if you have it.
  • Wear EPA-registered insect repellents, long sleeves and pants to prevent mosquito bites. When used as directed, these insect repellents are proven safe and effective even for pregnant and breastfeeding women. During the day, apply sunscreen first and then the repellent to exposed skin.

If you’re pregnant and traveled to an area with Zika virus within the past two weeks, or your partner has traveled to or lived in an area with Zika virus, ask your health care provider about Zika testing.

Information provided by the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment, Olathe, JoCoGov.org/jcdhe.

As always, please consult your health care provider with questions or concerns.

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