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Zika Virus: Answers for Pregnant Women

Thursday, February 4, 2016

There is a lot of information available about the Zika virus but what, if anything, do pregnant women need to know?

  1. Is there a link between the Zika virus and birth defects? Zika virus has been associated with microcephaly, or underdevelopment of the brain and head, in infants born to infected pregnant women. A causal link between Zika and microcephaly is suspected, but not yet confirmed, and additional studies are needed to learn about the true risks of infection during pregnancy. 
  2. How can I prevent catching the Zika virus? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that pregnant women, or women who may potentially become pregnant, avoid travel to countries that have been affected by the virus including a large number of countries in South America, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands. Check the CDC website for a complete list of affected countries. 
  3. If I am going to travel to an affected area, what should I do to prevent catching the virus? Travel to an affected area is not recommended for pregnant women. If travel is completely unavoidable, talk to your doctor and take maximal precautions to avoid mosquito bites. This should include use of CDC approved and EPA-registered insect repellents, wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats to cover exposed skin and maximizing time spent indoors in air-conditioned or screened rooms.
  4. Can I wear insect repellent when I’m pregnant or nursing? Yes. Pregnant women should use EPA-registered insect repellents and follow the directions on the label.
  5. If I catch the Zika virus before my pregnancy, is my baby at risk? Most people who are infected with Zika virus have detectable virus in their blood for up to two weeks. We do not yet have recommendations about the safe period between infection and conception. However, once the virus is cleared from the blood, prior Zika infection is not thought to affect future pregnancies. 


Children’s National Health System

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Categories: Infants


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