Archive for the ‘Zika’ Category

Zika travel guidance – an update and helpful tools

Monday, March 20th, 2017

airplaneThe CDC recently updated its Zika travel guidance. March is a time when many people get away from the snow, ice and cold and thaw out in the sunshine of a southern climate. But, before you hop on a plane, it is best to do a little homework first and find out where the Zika virus may be a threat.

An interactive world map will show you areas of Zika risk so that you are able to make an educated travel decision. The map shows international destinations as well as U.S. territories.  You can search for location-specific Zika information and travel recommendations.

Another helpful tool is CDC’s Know Your Zika Risk (scroll down the page to use the widget).  It will help you determine the risk of Zika for each person in your household and assist you in making informed decisions about your health.

If you are going to visit family or a friend in an area with Zika, the CDC tells you what you need to know before, during and after your trip, to keep you and your family safe.

Remember

  • If you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, do not travel to an area with active Zika.
  • Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her baby and can cause serious birth defects.
  • Even men need to protect themselves from Zika, as it can be passed through semen.
  • At this time, there is no vaccine to prevent Zika, and no known cure.

Prevention and protection is key. Learn more on our website.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org for a personalized reply from a health education specialist.

 

Zika and sperm – a new concern

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

spermThe latest news about the Zika virus is that there is a potential risk that some semen donated to sperm banks in South Florida might be contaminated with Zika.

Here’s why:

  • Zika can remain in semen for several months;
  • men who donated semen may not have shown signs or symptoms of Zika yet they could have been infected with the virus;
  • semen is not tested for Zika, unlike blood and tissue donations.

Therefore, it is possible that an infected man may have unknowingly donated semen contaminated with the Zika virus.

Where is the risk?

Although the Zika virus has been identified in Miami-Dade County, the risk of it spreading to other neighboring areas is possible, since individuals in this part of the state often travel to and from Broward and Palm Beach counties.

CDC says “This analysis has led to CDC identifying that since June 15, 2016, there has been a potential increased Zika risk for residents in Broward and Palm Beach counties because of local travel to areas of active transmission in Florida and challenges associated with defining sources of exposure.” The increased risk in the overall numbers of people exposed to the virus means that donor sperm may be at risk, too.

What does this mean to women trying to become pregnant by donor sperm?

Semen contains sperm, which is necessary for a woman to become pregnant. Although the risk of Zika transmission is small, if a woman wishes to become pregnant or currently is pregnant by donor sperm from these areas in Florida, she should speak with her healthcare provider. There have not been any confirmed cases of the Zika virus infecting a pregnant woman from donor sperm, but the possibility exists that it could occur.

The CDC emphasizes that Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause brain problems, microcephaly, and congenital Zika syndrome, a pattern of conditions in the baby that includes brain abnormalities, eye defects, hearing loss, and limb defects.

See our website for more information on Zika during pregnancy, microcephaly, and congenital Zika syndrome.

The CDC website offers detailed guidance for people living or traveling to South Florida.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Is the Zika virus affecting babies in the U.S.?

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

microcephalyShort answer…Yes.

The CDC just released a report that measured the number of brain related birth defects in the U.S. before and after the arrival of Zika. The study focused on data from three areas of the U.S. that track brain related birth defects – Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Atlanta, Georgia – in the year 2013-2014, before Zika arrived in the U.S.

It found that during that time, brain related birth defects occurred in 3 out of 1,000 births (.3%).

A study done looking at 2016 data shows that among women in the US with possible Zika virus infection, similar brain related birth defects were 20 times more common, affecting 60 of 1,000 pregnancies (6%).

This is a huge increase.

Here’s what we know

If a pregnant woman is infected with Zika, the virus can pass to her baby. Zika has been shown to cause a range of birth defects including brain problems, microcephaly, neural tube defects, eye defects and central nervous system problems. Although none of these birth defects are new to the medical field and they can occur for other reasons, it has been clearly established that the Zika virus can cause these serious problems, too.

Babies will require coordinated, long-term care

Babies born with Zika related birth defects will require access to coordinated medical care among a team of specialists. Such care may seem daunting to the parents and even to the medical community as they gather new information about the effects of the virus on a daily basis.

Enter the Zika Care Connect Network (ZCC)

This new website will launch in April 2017 to help parents and providers coordinate care for babies with complex medical needs due to Zika infection. The ZCC aims to improve access to medical care, which will jump-start early identification and intervention. The goal is to reduce the long-term effects of Zika on children and families by making it easier to locate a network of specialists knowledgeable about services for patients with Zika. The searchable database will feature a Provider Referral Network, patient resource tools, and a HelpLine.

Bottom line

Zika is still here, and it is seriously affecting babies and families. The best line of defense is to protect yourself from infection. Our website has detailed information on how to stay safe.

If you have questions, text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Don’t forget about Zika

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

woman window 2Just because it is winter in many parts of the U.S. does not mean that Zika has gone away. You still need to take appropriate precautions and be prepared. Zika infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly and other brain problems in your baby. It also may be linked to other birth defects and pregnancy loss. Pregnant women and their partners need to take special care to protect themselves from Zika infection.

Travel

If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, it is best for you and your partner to avoid travel to a Zika-affected area. So if you are planning travel to any tropical climates this winter, make sure you check the CDC website to see if your destination is affected with Zika.

Currently, Zika-affected areas include:

  • The United States, including Puerto Rico. Zika had been spreading by mosquitoes in parts of Miami-Dade County, Florida, but there have been no new cases of people infected by mosquitoes there recently. The CDC says pregnant women and their partners who are worried about being exposed to Zika may want to postpone travel to all parts of Miami-Dade County unless travel is absolutely necessary. The CDC also says that pregnant women may want to postpone travel to Brownville, Texas, because several cases of Zika have been reported in this area.
  • Africa
  • North, Central and South America
  • Pacific Islands

Zika can be sexually transmitted so it is important to use a barrier method of birth control (like condoms) if your partner has recently traveled to a Zika-affected area.

Prevent mosquito bites

If you or your partner do travel to a Zika-affected area, it is important that you both protect yourselves from mosquito bites. Here’s how:

  • Use an insect repellant that’s registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Always follow the instructions on the product label and make sure the product contains one or more of these substances that are safe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding:
    • DEET (at least 20%),
    • picaridin,
    • oil of lemon eucalyptus,
    • para-menthane-diol,
    • IR3535.
  • Wear a hat, a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, shoes and socks.
  • Stay in places that have air conditioning or screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.
  • If you’ve been in a Zika-affected area, use bug spray or lotion for 3 weeks after you get back to help prevent Zika from spreading to others.

Getting pregnant

If you or your partner have or may have Zika, when is it OK to get pregnant?

According to the CDC:

  • If you have signs or symptoms of Zika, wait at least 8 weeks from your first sign or symptom before trying to get pregnant.
  • If you think you were exposed to Zika but don’t have signs or symptoms, wait at least 8 weeks from when you think you were exposed before trying to get pregnant.
  • If your partner has signs or symptoms of Zika, wait at least 6 months from his first sign or symptom before trying to get pregnant.
  • If your partner has been exposed to Zika but doesn’t have signs or symptoms, wait at least 6 months from when he thinks he was exposed before trying to get pregnant.

The CDC recommends that you wait at least this long to be sure you and your partner aren’t infected with Zika virus when you try to get pregnant. Zika infection usually stays in your blood for a few days to a week, but it has been found in an infected man’s semen more than 3 months after symptoms started.

Remember, most people who have Zika don’t have signs or symptoms. If you think you or your partner may have Zika but haven’t had signs or symptoms, talk to your provider.

As the spring and summer approach, make sure you continue to check our web article and the CDC website. We cannot predict when or where a Zika-outbreak may occur, so once mosquitoes are biting, make sure you are taking the appropriate precautions and protecting yourself.

Prevent to protect: talk to your health care provider

Friday, January 6th, 2017

Pregnant woman talking with doctorJanuary is Birth Defects Prevention month. In the United States, a baby is born with a birth defect every 4 ½ minutes. Some infections before and during pregnancy can have serious consequences, including causing certain birth defects. Talking to your health care provider is an important way that you can help prevent infections and protect you and your baby.

During your preconception checkup or your first prenatal visit, talk to your health care provider about:

How to prevent infections

  • Maintain good hygiene. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially when preparing food or caring for young children.
  • Take precautions to protect yourself from animals known to carry diseases and insects that may carry infections, such as Zika.
  • Stay away from wild or pet rodents, live poultry, lizards, and turtles.
  • Do not clean a cat litter box during pregnancy.
  • Avoid travel to Zika-affected areas. Be sure to discuss any travel plans with your provider.
  • When mosquitoes are active, prevent mosquito bites using an EPA-registered bug spray containing one of these ingredients: DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol or IR3535. Wear appropriate clothing (hat, long-sleeved shirt, pants, shoes, & socks).
  • Don’t have sex with a male or female partner who may be infected with Zika virus or who has recently travelled to a Zika-affected area.

Vaccinations before pregnancy

It’s best to be up to date on all your routine adult vaccinations before you get pregnant. These vaccinations are recommended before pregnancy:

  • Flu. Get the flu vaccine once a year before flu season (October through May). There are many different flu viruses, and they’re always changing. Each year a new flu vaccine is made to protect against three or four flu viruses that are likely to make people sick during the upcoming flu season.
  • HPV (human papillomavirus). This vaccine protects against the infection that causes genital warts. The infection also may lead to cervical cancer. The CDC recommends that women up to age 26 get the HPV vaccine.
  • MMR (measles, mumps and rubella). This vaccine protects you against measles, mumps and rubella (also called German measles). Measles during pregnancy can cause miscarriage. Rubella can cause serious problems during pregnancy, such as miscarriage, stillbirth, and birth defects.
  • Varicella. This vaccine protects you from chickenpox, an infection that spreads easily and causes itchy skin, rash and fever. During pregnancy, it can be dangerous for a baby and cause birth defects. If you’re thinking about getting pregnant and haven’t had chickenpox or been vaccinated for it, tell your provider.

Vaccinations during pregnancy

The CDC recommends two vaccinations during pregnancy:

  • Flu shot if you weren’t vaccinated before pregnancy. You can get a flu shot at any time during pregnancy.
  • Pertussis vaccine (Tdap) at 27 to 36 weeks of pregnancy. Pertussis (also called whooping cough) is an extremely contagious disease that causes violent coughing and is dangerous for a baby. Pregnant women should get a dose of Tdap during every pregnancy, to protect their baby.

Remember, preventing infections before and during pregnancy can help to keep you and your baby safe. Speaking with your healthcare provider can help you become as healthy as possible before and during pregnancy.

Have questions? Text or email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Looking for a New Year’s Resolution? We’ve got 9 for you.

Friday, December 30th, 2016

“Your health before and during pregnancy has a direct impact on your baby,” says Dr. Siobhan Dolan, the March of Dimes medical advisor and co-author of Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby: The Ultimate Pregnancy Guide. “The good news is that there are many things you can do as a mom-to-be that can protect your own health and help you have a healthy baby.”

Birth defects affect 1 in every 33 babies born in the United States each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you are pregnant or planning a baby this season, make a New Year’s resolution to be as healthy as possible.

Here are Dr. Dolan’s 9 New Year’s Resolutions for moms-to-be:

  1. Take a daily multivitamin containing the B vitamin folic acid, even if you’re not trying to become pregnant. Getting enoughmultivitamin folate or folic acid before pregnancy can help prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine. It’s a good idea to eat foods that contain folate, the natural form of folic acid, including lentils, green leafy vegetables, black beans, and orange juice. In addition, some foods are fortified with folic acid, including enriched grain products such as bread, cereal, and pasta, and certain corn masa products such as tortilla chips and tacos. Be sure to check package labels.
  2. Be up-to-date with your vaccinations (shots). Talk to your healthcare provider about vaccinations you should receive before or during pregnancy.
  3. Don’t eat raw or undercooked meat, raw or runny eggs, unpasteurized (raw) juice or dairy products, raw sprouts — or products made with them.
  4. Handle food safely. Be sure to wash all knives, utensils, cutting boards, and dishes used to prepare raw meat, fish or poultry before they come into contact with other foods.
  5. Maintain good hygiene. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially before preparing or eating foods; after being around or touching pets and other animals; and after changing diapers or wiping runny noses.
  6. Do not put a young child’s food, utensils, drinking cups, or pacifiers in your mouth.
  7. Protect yourself from animals and insects known to carry diseases such as Zika virus, including mosquitos. Find out more at ZAPzika.org.
  8. Stay away from wild or pet rodents, live poultry, lizards and turtles during pregnancy.
  9. Let someone else clean the cat litter box!

Besides taking a daily multivitamin containing folic acid to prevent birth defects of the brain and spine, women can take the above steps to avoid infections that can hurt them and their babies during pregnancy. Foodborne illnesses, viruses, and parasites can cause birth defects and lifelong disabilities, such as hearing loss or learning problems.

January is Birth Defects Prevention Month – the perfect time to learn what you can do to have a healthy pregnancy. We’ll have posts every week on different birth defects topics. So, be sure to be on the look-out for more info!

Have questions? Text or email them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Three quarters of a century young (yes – we’re 79 years old!)

Monday, December 19th, 2016

fdr-warm-springs-kidsIt’s that time of year, when magazines are full of stories and photos of the year in review, and people look back to take stock of their accomplishments. This post is taking it a step further…here is a celebration of our past 79 years!

Why the dimes? (we get this question a lot)

The March of Dimes was started in 1938 when Franklin Roosevelt’s personal struggle with polio led him to create the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. It was a time when polio was on the rise nationwide. The name for the fundraiser “March of Dimes” was coined by comedian and radio personality Eddie Cantor as a pun on a popular movie newsreel of the era, The March of Time. Cantor asked his radio audience to send dimes to the White House to help polio patients and support research. After billions of dimes were received, the organization became known as the March of Dimes. The end result of this effort was the development of the polio vaccines, which have almost completely rid the world of this disabling disease.

check in boxIt is very unusual for a nonprofit organization to fulfill its mission as completely as that of the March of Dimes. So, when the March of Dimes checked off the box on the successful development of the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines, we turned our focus to that of preventing birth defects and infant mortality. With thousands of birth defects on record, we’ve had our hands full.

Our work after polio

The March of Dimes has funded research looking for the underlying genetic causes of birth defects to help us better understand what can go wrong and hopefully how to prevent them. We’ve funded research into the development of surfactant therapy to treat breathing problems in premature infants, which has saved thousands of lives since 1990. We’ve successfully championed and promoted newborn screening so that more infants with devastating conditions are identified and treated in a timely manner; and we led the campaign to add folic acid to grain foods in the United States, thereby reducing serious birth defects of the brain and spine by 27%.

We began educating the public on how to have a healthy pregnancy by producing a robust website of articles, print materials, this blog, and using social media to help women understand what they can do to have a full-term, healthy baby. We began answering individual health questions from the public in 1996 and still continue to answer thousands of questions every year.

But we didn’t stop there.

Our work with babies, birth defects and infant mortality provided a natural transition into fighting premature birth, the number 1 cause of deathPassing the time while your baby is in the NICU among babies in the U.S. Nearly 1 in 10 babies is born prematurely. Despite the advances in neonatal medicine, many babies still die, and the ones who survive often face a lifetime of disability – from mild to severe. In short, it is simply something that we knew we needed to fight.

So, in 2003 we launched our Prematurity Campaign. And in 2011, we launched the first of five prematurity research centers, each one staffed by the best and brightest scientists, and each one focused on a different aspect of prematurity. The best part of this 5-pronged approach is that the researchers all talk to one another and collaborate, encouraging synergy. Our goal is to be as successful with ending prematurity as we were with eliminating polio.

We also continued in the quest to allow folic acid to be added to corn masa flour in the U.S., and…drum roll please…we were successful this year! This is very important for the Hispanic community as corn masa flour is a staple for many Hispanic families. Fortifying corn masa flour products such as tortilla chips, tacos, and tamales, with folic acid will help prevent more devastating neural tube birth defects like Spina Bifida.

Wait…there’s more…

In the meantime, another related mission has surfaced – stopping the Zika virus. The devastating effects that Zika can have on a developing baby are well documented (microcephaly, congenital Zika syndrome, and developmental delays).

The March of Dimes led a coalition of almost 100 organizations to educate Congress about the dangers of Zika and was successful in the passage of federal funding to combat the virus. We continue to raise awareness with our #ZAPzika campaign to let women know how to protect themselves. By working with the CDC, we‘re educating the public about this virus so that pregnant women can protect themselves and their babies from Zika.

Yes. We’ve been very busy. The past 78 years have gone by quite fast.

Is there anything else in our future? Glad you asked!

A new March of Dimes President.

With the start of 2017, we will be under the leadership of President, Stacey D. Stewart, MBA, a woman of experience, intelligence, creativity and integrity. We’re so excited to welcome her.

The mission of the March of Dimes is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

We are confident that under the leadership of Ms. Stewart, we will once again check off the box on a mission accomplished.

 

 

Traveling for the holidays? Pack your bug spray (or check travel advisories first)

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

travel-by-airTis the season to book a relaxing vacation, or maybe a long weekend to visit family. If you’ve already pulled out your suitcase to start packing, take a minute to check your destination for Zika travel advisories. If you’re traveling to a Zika affected area, you may need to do some extra planning.

If a woman gets infected with Zika during pregnancy, she can pass it to her baby. It can cause a birth defect called congenital Zika syndrome and may cause other developmental problems. But even if you’re not pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant soon, you still need to learn how to protect yourself from Zika. Even men need to protect themselves from Zika.

The areas where Zika has had cases of local transmission (acquired through a mosquito bite) are being updated continually by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For example, recently, health officials in South Texas believe they have identified their first locally transmitted case of Zika in a woman living in Brownsville. This is in addition to cases found in Florida, as well as many other places in the world.

The CDC has travel advisories posted for Zika affected areas – check them before you hit the road.  

Remember, if you’re pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, talk to your health care provider before you travel. When traveling to an affected area, keep up to date on what to know BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER your visit to keep yourself and your family safe!

And don’t forget to sign up to receive Zika updates for your destination with CDC’s new text messaging service. Text PLAN to 855-255-5606 to subscribe.

Have questions? Text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Got Zika questions?

Friday, December 9th, 2016

The March of Dimes is pleased to announce our partnership with Mother-to-Baby. Together, we are able to provide answers to your Zika questions by phone, email, text or live chat. Check this out:

MOD and mothertobaby org infographic ENG

Please reach out to us with your concerns. Our teams of trained health information specialists are available to answer your questions. Be sure to see our resources to learn how to keep yourself and your family Zika free.

 

Zika virus case believed to be found in Texas

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

Aedes aegypti mosquitoHealth officials in South Texas believe they have identified their first locally transmitted case of Zika virus in a woman living in Brownsville.

A locally transmitted case means that the person who got the Zika virus did not get it by traveling to a place where it is commonly found nor did the person have sex with someone who has the virus. She also did not get it through a blood transfusion or in a lab setting. In other words, it was most likely spread by an infected mosquito.

Texas health officials have set up surveillance sites in the Brownsville area where the infected woman lives, to test mosquitoes for possible infection. They are also trying to find out if anyone else in the area has been infected with the virus.

CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. said “Even though it is late in the mosquito season, mosquitoes can spread Zika in some areas of the country. Texas is doing the right thing by increasing local surveillance and trapping and testing mosquitoes in the Brownsville area.”

The CDC’s press release states: “As of Nov 23, 2016, 4,444 cases of Zika have been reported to CDC in the continental United States and Hawaii; 182 of these were the result of local spread by mosquitoes. These cases include 36 believed to be the result of sexual transmission and one that was the result of a laboratory exposure. This number does not include the current case under investigation in Texas.”

Now that the cold weather has arrived, you may think that the Zika virus is a thing of the past. But, this announcement of a likely locally transmitted case of Zika should be a reminder that Zika is still here, and it is still a threat.

If a woman gets infected with Zika during pregnancy, she can pass it to her baby. It can cause a birth defect called microcephaly, congenital Zika syndrome, and other developmental problems.

Read why Zika is harmful to pregnant women and babies, and what you need to know to keep you and your family safe.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.