We have a strong aversion to “fear tactics.” Our clients already have enough to juggle as they learn about infertility and begin to chart their fertility treatment calendar. As health providers, however, it’s our job to inform you of medical or health-related developments that raise red flags for women and reproductive health.
The Connection Between Brazil & The Zika Virus
The Zika Virus is transmitted via mosquito. About one-in-five people who are bitten by a mosquito carrying the Zika virus will actually become ill, and deaths from the virus are rare. However, there is an alarming link between pregnant women who contract the Zika virus and the development of Guillain-Barre syndrome in the mother, as well as babies born with microcephaly, a congenital birth defect that causes incomplete brain development.
Early this month, the US Centers for Disease Control and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists offered warnings to pregnant women who have recently traveled to Brazil and 13 other countries, including:
- El Salvador
- French Guiana
- Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
If you are pregnant and have recently traveled to any of these comforts, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to be on the safe side. Health experts also recommend that pregnant mothers who have recently traveled to these countries be referred to a maternal-fetal medicine or infectious-disease specialist with expertise in pregnancy management.
Symptoms of Zika Virus
Remember that only one in five people become ill after being exposed to the Zika virus. So, even if you have been exposed, the chances of developing it are relatively low. That being said, it’s good to err on the side of caution, especially if you have exhibited any of the signs and symptoms of Zika virus and/or if yours is considered a high-risk pregnancy, or if you have conceived with the assistance of fertility treatments.
The symptoms of Zika virus include:
- Muscle pain
- Red eyes (conjunctivitis)
- Joint pain
The incubation period (the time between infection and the onset of illness) is thought to be a few days to about a week, but it could stretch a little longer than that.
If you test positively for the Zika virus, the CDC and ACOG advises more frequent monitoring of fetal development via ultrasound to ensure your baby’s brain is developing normally.
On Friday, January 15, 2016, the CDC held a press conference to promote the official warning. “We believe this is a fairly serious problem,” said the director of the CDC’s Division of Vector Borne Infectious Diseases, Lyle Petersen. He continued, “The virus is spreading fairly rapidly throughout the Americas and a large percentage of the population may become infected.”
Due to the link between the Zika virus and microcephaly, healthcare providers feel it’s essential to get the word out to their pregnant patients and the general public.
What Can You Do?
Currently, there are no medications to “cure” the Zika virus and there are no vaccines to prevent it. The common treatment is typical of that for any illness: drink plenty of fluids, get lots of rest and protect yourself from mosquito bites to prevent spreading it to others. While you can use acetaminophen for pain-relief, experts warn that you NOT take aspirin or common anti-inflammatory meds (like ibuprofen or Alleve) because in the off-chance you have Dengue fever (the symptoms of which mimic Zika virus) these meds can contribute to hemorrhaging.
If you are pregnant, and have recently traveled to a country on the “alert list,” take a deep breath. There is no need to panic. However, you DO need to Contact your OB, midwife or fertility specialist immediately to schedule an appointment and determine the steps that make the most sense for you. If someone you know has traveled to one of those countries and has become ill, take precautions. While the virus is not spread from person-to-person, it is spread by mosquitos, so you may want to wear a repellant as added protection.
Pregnant women planning to travel to one of the countries on the above list should seriously re-think their plans. If traveling is absolutely necessary, take extra precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitos and schedule a visit with your doctor upon your return.
Visit the CDC website for more information about the Zika virus.