Don’t forget about Zika
Just 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.
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.
- 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%),
- oil of lemon eucalyptus,
- 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.
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.