Women's Health

Zika Virus: What it Means for Women in the Tri-State

Planning on taking a late summer vacation before the weather gets cold? You might want to think twice, especially if you're a hopeful mother-to-be. Pregnant women across the Tri-State are being advised to talk to their OB provider before and after traveling to warmer climates. As concerns of Zika virus become more prevalent in the U.S., Michael Marcotte, MD, Director of Quality and Safety for TriHealth Women’s Services, warns the “most important thing for pregnant women, and women planning to become pregnant, is to make sure they alert their doctor so they know what steps can be taken to make sure they are safe.” 

What You Should Know

Zika virus is an infection transmitted through a species of mosquitoes found in subtropical climates like Mexico, the Caribbean, South America, Pacific Islands and some West African countries. As the summer comes to an end, more and more cases of Zika have been reported in warmer parts of the country, particularly Florida. According to the CDC, the Florida Department of Health has identified, there is now a mosquito-borne spread of Zika virus in a section of Miami Beach – where many people vacation.

While Zika virus can affect individuals who are bitten by these mosquitoes, most people never see symptoms of the virus (including fever, maculopapular rash and conjunctivitis). This means the virus can spread without anyone knowing about it.

The primary concern, according to Dr. Marcotte, are women who get Zika infection while pregnant - whether or not they have symptoms of the virus.
Once a pregnant mother is infected, there is strong evidence the virus can be passed on to the fetus. This is ultimately thought to have an association with babies who develop severe brain abnormalities like microcephaly: a condition causing problems in the development of a child’s head size, brain function and neurological development along with vision and hearing problems.

What You Can do to Prevent the Spread of Zika

#1: If you are pregnant, or may become pregnant, do not travel to areas reported as having active transmission of Zika. If you plan to travel to Miami beach or surrounding areas before the end of the summer, or anywhere the virus is being reported, consider speaking with your doctor before taking off.

Reported Active Transmission

All reported cases of the Zika virus across the Tri-State have been related to individuals, or their spouses, who have traveled to warmer climates and were infected while traveling. Protect yourself and your family by postponing travel plans or finding an alternative destination. 

Find a comprehensive list of territories to avoid from the CDC here

#2: Alert your doctor if you have traveled to subtropical climates, even if you do not display symptoms.

Pregnant women, or those planning to become pregnant, may need to be tested for Zika after traveling to geographic regions where the virus is spreading. Because microcephaly could take weeks or months to be noticed in a growing fetus, Dr. Marcotte recommends a detailed ultrasound be conducted three to four weeks after exposure or symptoms.

#3: If you and/or your spouse must travel to areas where Zika is prevalent, take necessary precautions:

  • Avoid having sex during your pregnancy or use protection 
  • Wear clothes that cover your skin
  • Stay in rooms with air-conditioning
  • Use insect repellents with DEET

Avoiding mosquito bites in these locations is the best way to protect your family.Since the virus can be transmitted through sex, using a condom or practicing abstinence can help eliminate potential Zika exposure.

The virus can also be spread if a mosquito bites a person who is infected but might not know it – keep in mind that the symptoms are often silent. The newly infected mosquito can then spread the virus to new people and potentially more mosquitoes. You can protect your skin from mosquito bites by wearing clothes that eliminate skin exposure, using insect repellents that contain DEET and staying in rooms with controlled temperatures.

Tags Women's Health

Last Updated: March 09, 2016