Summer is here and so are the mosquitos. For women who are pregnant or wish to become pregnant, mosquitos not only leave an annoying itch, they may also bring worry about the Zika virus.
As we continue to learn more about the Zika virus, Dr. Melissa Mancuso, director of fetal treatment center at Akron Children’s, offers insight for area women concerned about the risk of Zika at home and while on vacation.
Q: Is there more risk of contracting the Zika virus in Ohio now that more mosquitos are out?
DR. MANCUSO: With the summer months and more people enjoying the outdoors, there is an increased risk for exposure to mosquito bites.
However there have been no cases of Zika-related microcephaly (a birth defect characterized by brain damage and an unusually small head) from Ohio-born mosquitoes. It’s always important to protect yourself from mosquito bites using the appropriate repellent and clothing.
Q: How long do I have to wait before I get pregnant if I think my partner or me have been exposed to the Zika virus?
DR. MANCUSO: Current data suggests that the risk to pregnancy is minimal if a patient waits at least 8 weeks after Zika symptoms start. Men infected with Zika should wait 6 months after symptoms start before attempting pregnancy.
The CDC recommends women and their partners discuss pregnancy planning with a doctor or healthcare provider and talk about the potential risk of Zika virus infection during pregnancy, as well as their male partner’s potential exposures to Zika virus.
Q: What if I get infected with Zika now and want to get pregnant in a couple of years? Is my pregnancy at risk?
DR. MANCUSO: Data suggests that exposure or infection with Zika now should not cause pregnancy-related complications if pregnancy occurs at least 8 weeks after Zika symptoms start, after the virus has cleared from the blood.
According to the CDC and what is known about similar infections, once a person has been infected with Zika virus, he or she is likely to be protected from a future Zika infection.
Q: What if I’m pregnant now and get bitten by a potential Zika virus-carrying mosquito? Is there a test that I should request to have done to know for sure?
DR. MANCUSO: If you’re concerned about Zika infection make an appointment with your obstetrician or perinatologist who can order the appropriate bloodwork and urine tests to determine whether an infection exists.
Serial ultrasounds to evaluate for Zika-related complications will also be recommended. These can be performed by perinatologists or specialists trained in ultrasound and complications of pregnancy.
Q: If I’m worried I have Zika but my baby is born normal, are we in the clear?
DR. MANCUSO: What we know thus far about the Zika virus suggests that if the mom was infected or suspected of being infected and the baby is born without microcephaly then complications should be minimal, but further evaluation may be recommended.
Q: Is there a vaccination for Zika?
DR. MANCUSO: Unfortunately there is no vaccination for Zika yet. The most important thing a woman can do is avoid areas where the Zika virus is widespread and protect against the virus by wearing adequate clothing, mosquito repellent and avoid sexual relations or trying to become pregnant with someone who has been exposed to the virus.
It’s also a good idea to check the CDC website for the latest news and information about the Zika virus.