To learn more about Zika, including how to stay safe, see our web article.
Posts Tagged ‘Zika’
Today, Dr. Frieden received the March of Dimes President’s Leadership Award for serving as a champion in the fight against Zika. This award is given to acknowledge very high levels of achievement in preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality. Dr. Frieden is receiving it for his outstanding leadership in combatting Zika and raising public awareness of its threat to newborn health.
The March of Dimes and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been working together for many years to protect moms, babies and families from diseases and to promote good health. Since the Zika outbreak, March of Dimes and CDC have joined forces to spread the word about the devastating impact of this virus on pregnant women and babies.
Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, Director of the CDC, is at the helm focusing national and global attention on this virus. Zika can cause microcephaly and other brain problems, and is linked to miscarriage and stillbirth.
Dr. Howse, President of March of Dimes says “We’re giving Dr. Frieden this award to show our gratitude for his dedication to preventing Zika virus infection during this epidemic. His decisive actions and strong voice for protecting women and families from serious birth defects caused by Zika are at the heart of our mission.”
Thank you Dr. Frieden. Together we will continue educating the public on how they can protect themselves from Zika.
To learn more about the Zika virus – where it is in the world, its impact on pregnant women and babies, and what you can do to stay safe – visit marchofdimes.org/zika.
If you have questions, send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org. We’re here to help.
As a teratology information specialist, I counsel women and their families on medications, chemicals, herbal remedies, and illnesses that could harm developing babies. So as the Zika Virus, a viral infection that can cause severe birth defects including microcephaly (a condition where a baby’s head is much smaller than expected, and may indicate a baby’s brain has not developed properly during pregnancy), spread from the Polynesian Islands, to South America, to the Caribbean, I made sure to educate myself on everything we know about the virus, reading article after article and keeping up to date on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC’s) recommendations to avoid infection, knowing that eventually I would need this information to counsel a pregnant woman or her family. I never imagined I would use this information to try to prevent becoming infected myself, and that I would fail.
One week in February I opened an email from my in-laws with the subject “30th Birthday Plan.” My husband’s 30th was a few weeks away, and I was excited to see what they had planned. As I read the email detailing a week-long sailing trip in the Caribbean I felt blessed, and honestly a little scared. I rushed to the CDC’s page on Zika to look up whether the islands we were visiting had outbreaks. Sure enough-16 Caribbean islands, including the two we were visiting, had Zika outbreaks. At first I didn’t want to go, which set off an intense inner debate racked with guilt. “How could I say no to a surprise trip for my husband, especially one planned and paid for by my in-laws?” I thought, and in the next second, “But what if I get Zika? I work with pregnant women, I can’t expose them!” Finally, my Dad stepped in. “You’re too adventurous to let Zika scare you away from a vacation.” he said. “Fine,” I thought, “I’ll go, but I’m going to be careful.”
I was careful. Despite the gentle teasing from my in-laws, I insisted on sleeping indoors with the windows closed, even though it was more comfortable outside. I wore bug spray with 30% DEET when I thought mosquitos would be out. I got three or so bites at dinner one night, and three more at the end of our trip. As we headed home I mentally patted myself on the back; “Only six bites,” I thought, “pretty sure I didn’t get Zika!” I was so sure that three days after our trip when I developed a head-to-toe rash I was certain it was an allergic reaction, but after three doses of Benadryl did nothing, I googled Zika-related rashes. Dead ringer. Symptoms of the Zika Virus include rash, joint and muscle pain, red eye, fever, and headache, and boy did I have them. I rushed in to see an infectious disease doctor, who came to the same conclusion. “My money’s on Zika,” he said. Suddenly everyone wanted a piece of me; my blood was sent to the county board of health, Emory’s lab, and a lab in Washington for testing.
A call from the county board of health confirmed what my aching joints hinted at: I tested positive. My first thought was to thank my lucky stars that I have access to safe, reliable birth control. My second was to start worrying about those around me. I had brunch with a pregnant friend before I had symptoms-could I have given her Zika? Thankfully, the answer is no (more on that below)! I was amazed at how a short vacation and six bites could give me Zika. I thought about all the people going to the Caribbean for vacation. How many of them are pregnant or could become pregnant while traveling? Would they wear bug spray? Would they recognize the symptoms? How many are men who could get Zika and then unknowingly transmit it to their sexual partner? How many people are walking around not knowing they were infected? I called my friend and begged her to wear insect repellant for the rest of her pregnancy.
As of July 27, 2016, 1,658 cases of Zika, including 433 pregnant women have been confirmed in the continental United States; 4 cases of local transmission have been reported in Miami-Dade and Broward counties in Florida. There are likely far more cases since most people don’t have symptoms, so never get tested. Zika is mostly spread through mosquito bites, but can also be spread through sex, blood transfusions, or from a mother to baby during pregnancy. We don’t know how long the incubation period (the time between when you get infected and when you see symptoms) is, but it is likely a few days to weeks. For most people the virus stays in the blood for about a week, but some people still have the virus in their bodies for as long as two months. Currently, the only Zika outbreak in the continental United States is in a small area of Dade County, Florida, however, the mosquitoes that can carry Zika are found in some areas of the US, making a Zika outbreak in the U.S. very possible. You can follow these steps to protect yourself:
1. If you are pregnant or could be pregnant (planning a pregnancy or not using birth control), don’t travel to a country with an active Zika outbreak. You can find a list of current outbreaks here.
2. If your partner has traveled to a country with an active Zika outbreak and you are pregnant, use condoms correctly every time you have sex for the rest of your pregnancy. Why, you might ask? Because Zika can stay in semen longer than in blood, but we don’t know exactly how long it stays there. To be as safe as possible, the CDC recommends using condoms for 6 months.
3. If your partner has traveled to a country with an active Zika outbreak and has symptoms of Zika (rash, fever, headache, joint pain, and conjunctivitis) use condoms correctly whenever you have sex and avoid pregnancy for at least six months. If he does not have symptoms, use condoms and avoid pregnancy for at least two months.
4. If you have traveled to a country with an active Zika outbreak and you are not pregnant, avoid pregnancy for at least two months. The Zika virus can also be transmitted from a woman to her sexual partner. Because of this, use condoms and/or a dental dam when you have sex for two months. Do not share sex toys.
5. If you are currently pregnant, avoid mosquito bites as much as possible by wearing bug spray outdoors (bug spray with at least 30% DEET is preferable; for information on the safety of DEET during pregnancy, see here), wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, closing windows or using windows with screens, and removing any standing water from around your house. Two things to remember: the mosquitos that spread Zika are daytime biters and like to be indoors, and they can breed in pools as small as a bottle-cap.
If you have questions about the Zika virus or you have been infected or exposed and want free up-to-date information about what this could mean for a current or future pregnancy, you can contact a MotherToBaby expert by phone at (866) 626-6847, by text at (855) 999-3525, or by live chat or email by visiting www.mothertobaby.org.
Note: since the writing of this blog post, more cases of Zika have been reported in Florida. The CDC website has updated, detailed information.
We have received a number of questions at AskUs@marchofdimes.org asking why men need to be concerned about Zika.
The quick answer is because Zika can be sexually transmitted.
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. Semen contains sperm, which is what fertilizes an egg to get a woman pregnant. We don’t know how long Zika stays in a woman’s vaginal fluid or genital tract. If a man is infected with Zika and has sex with a pregnant woman, he can pass the virus to her and then it is possible for her to pass it to her unborn baby.
How can a man prevent a Zika infection?
- Avoid travel to Zika-affected areas. Men whose partners may be pregnant or trying to conceive, should avoid travel to a Zika-affected area unless it is absolutely necessary.
- Prevent mosquito bites. If a man does travel to a Zika-affected area, he should avoid mosquito bites during the trip. Continue to use insect repellant for at least 3 weeks after return, to help prevent Zika from spreading to others.
- Use a condom. When he returns from his trip, it is important to use a condom every time he has sex to prevent passing Zika to his partner. The length of time that you should use condoms depends on your personal situation and concerns. Talk to your provider.
What if a man thinks he may have been infected with Zika?
- Recognize the symptoms. Illness usually begin 2 to 7 days after you’ve been exposed to the virus. You can be sick with Zika for several days to a week. Signs and symptoms include:
- Fever (You may or may not have a fever if you have Zika.)
- Joint or muscle pain
- Pink eye (also called conjunctivitis) or pain behind the eyes
- Throwing up
- Most people who have Zika don’t feel sick or have symptoms. If you think you may have Zika, talk to your health care provider. You can find out if you have Zika with a blood or urine test.
- If you have Zika, or THINK you may have Zika, be careful not to infect your partner. Use condoms.
What can you do if you’re planning to get pregnant?
- If a man has been tested for and has Zika, wait at least 6 months after his first sign or symptom of Zika before trying to get pregnant.
- If a woman has been tested for and has Zika, wait at least 8 weeks from her first sign or symptom before trying to get pregnant.
- If you or your partner may have Zika but neither of you have signs or symptoms and neither of you has been tested, wait at least 8 weeks from when you think you may have been exposed to Zika before trying to get pregnant.
The CDC recommends that you wait this long to be sure you and your partner aren’t infected with Zika when you try to get pregnant.
See our article for more details about the Zika virus, including how to stay safe.
Have questions? Send them to our Health Education Specialists at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.
- Use an insect repellant (bug spray or lotion) that is EPA registered.
- Products containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol and IR3535, are safe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- If you use a product containing DEET, make sure it has at least 20% DEET, and always follow the instructions on the product label.
- Most bug sprays and lotions are safe to use on babies 2 months and older. However, DO NOT USE PRODUCTS THAT CONTAIN OIL OF LEMON EUCALPTUS OR PARA-MENTHANE-DIOL ON CHILDREN YOUNGER THAN 3 YEARS OF AGE.
- Do not put bug spray or lotion on under clothing.
- If you are using sunscreen, too, put it on first, before you use bug spray or lotion.
If you have recently traveled to a Zika-affected area, use bug spray or lotion for 3 weeks after you get back. This way, if you are bitten by a mosquito, it will not become infected with the Zika virus and spread it to other people.
Learn ways to #ZAPzika in our article: how to stay safe, how it can affect a baby during pregnancy, and what to do if you think you may have been exposed.
Have questions? Send them to our health education specialists at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.
Today, we welcome guest blogger Cynthia Pellegrini, Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Government Affairs at the March of Dimes. She has worked in Congress and advocacy organizations for 23 years.
I’ve been working in and with the U.S. Congress for over 20 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this.
Everyone in Congress recognizes the threat posed by the Zika virus. No one wants to see babies born with microcephaly – cases of small, underdeveloped heads and brains – or other birth defects. There is broad consensus that Zika is a real issue and must be addressed head-on.
And yet, Congress has managed to entangled itself in partisan politics so thoroughly that they are about to leave until after Labor Day without doing anything at all on Zika virus.
Back in February, the President sent a request to Congress for emergency funding to combat Zika. It’s not unusual for emergency funding to be requested when a major issue comes up unexpectedly in the middle of a fiscal year. Emergency funding is needed because all the other government funds are already allocated to other purposes, and there’s limited flexibility to move those funds around.
But this time, Congress reacted slowly. Over six weeks passed without any activity at all. Even once Congress did start to work on Zika virus, movement was slow and difficult. The House and Senate passed very different versions of a Zika package, and then had to spend weeks working out the differences. Memorial Day came and went, and the July Fourth.
Now there are only 4 days remaining before the scheduled Congressional recess and the political conventions. And there’s no sign of any break in the stalemate.
Please sign this petition and tell Congress that there’s nothing more important than the health of pregnant women and babies.
No pregnant women should have to worry every day that a single mosquito bite may change her child’s life forever. Congress shouldn’t leave for the summer until they have done their sworn duty to protect the American people. It’s wrong, it shouldn’t be tolerated and we need everyone – including you and all your friends! — to join together to tell them so.
Be sure to check out our article for everything you need to know about the Zika virus and pregnancy. Learn what it is, how it spreads, signs and symptoms, how to avoid it, how it affects pregnant women and babies, and what you can do to be safe.
Questions? Text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org.
Local mosquito-borne Zika virus (also referred to as local transmission) means that mosquitoes in an area are infected with the Zika virus and can transmit it to people.
Here is a complete listing of Zika affected areas with local mosquito-borne zika virus:
- Florida: The CDC has issued an advisory for pregnant women to postpone travel to all parts of Miami-Dade County and for men and women who are planning to become pregnant in the near future to consider postponing nonessential travel to the Miami-Dade County area. For updated information, visit the CDC’s website.
Asia, Oceania & Pacific Islands
- American Samoa
- Kosrae, Federated States of Micronesia
- Marshall Islands
- New Caledonia
- Papua New Guinea
- Cape Verde
Mosquitoes are not the only way the Zika virus can be transmitted. To learn about all the different ways and how to protect yourself visit our website.
Updated December 6th, 2016.
The most common way for Zika to spread is through the bite of an infected mosquito. So the best way to protect yourself is to avoid mosquito bites. While Zika is currently not being transmitted in the US, it’s still a good idea to know how to keep you and your family safe.
Use insect repellant
The best way to protect yourself against mosquito bites is to use insect repellant. Here are a few things to look for when choosing a spray or lotion:
- Use one that is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). All EPA-registered bug sprays and lotions are checked to make sure they’re safe and effective.
- Use products that contain:
- oil of lemon eucalyptus
- When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are safe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- Most repellants are safe to use on babies 2 months and older, but check with your baby’s health care provider. Do not use oil of lemon eucalyptus on children 3 years or younger.
- Do not wear insect repellant under clothes.
- Put on sunscreen first before any bug spray.
If you’ve been in a Zika-affected area, use insect repellant for 3 weeks after you return, even if you do not feel sick. This will help to prevent Zika from spreading to others.
Wear the right clothing
- Wear a hat, a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, shoes and socks. Ankles and necks are especially vulnerable to mosquito bites so make sure they are protected.
- If hiking or camping, wear permethrin-treated clothes. Do not use permethrin on skin.
- If you are pregnant or trying to conceive and you work outside, talk to your employer about working inside. If that’s not possible, make sure your clothes protect and cover your skin.
Keep your environment safe
- Take steps to keep mosquitoes outside and to prevent them from breeding.
- Remove any standing water.
- Stay in places with air conditioning.
- Make sure that screens on doors or windows are intact and do not have any holes.
- Use mosquito netting across the top of your baby’s stroller or crib to help keep your baby safe from mosquitoes. Keep the netting out of reach of your baby and make sure it doesn’t touch your baby’s face or body.
When a woman is pregnant and is infected with the Zika virus, it may cross the placenta and may stop the development of a baby’s brain. Zika infection during pregnancy causes a birth defect called microcephaly as well as other brain problems known as “fetal brain disruption sequence.”
Microcephaly means small (micro) head (cephaly) – a baby’s head is smaller than the heads of babies of the same age and sex. Microcephaly does not always cause serious problems for a baby. But in certain cases, microcephaly can cause lasting consequences, such as intellectual and developmental disabilities. Babies born with microcephaly may have cerebral palsy, poor growth, face deformities, feeding problems, seizures, problems with hearing or vision, and hyperactivity. They may face life-threatening medical conditions. Microcephaly caused by the Zika virus may be severe and is extremely concerning.
There is no cure for microcephaly. Babies with microcephaly will need regular medical check-ups and follow up care. Many will need specialized treatment by doctors such as a neurologist, developmental and behavioral pediatrician, and rehabilitation specialists. Early intervention services for babies and toddlers as well as special education services for children ages 3 and older, may be essential in helping a child develop.
Fetal brain disruption sequence refers to the halting of the development of a baby’s brain as a result of being exposed to the Zika virus. This stop in development can result in a wide variety of health problems for the baby, which can be lifelong.
The Zika virus may also be linked to growth problems in the womb, miscarriage and stillbirth.
Currently, there are no FDA-approved vaccines to prevent Zika. But, the FDA (The US Food and Drug Administration) has approved the first Zika vaccine study in human volunteers, ahead of schedule. Clinical trials should begin in the next few weeks. Although this is great news, it could take years before a safe vaccine is available to the public.
How can you stay safe?
The Zika virus is real and dangerous. Until a vaccine is available, learn all you can about how to stay safe.
The March of Dimes maintains up-to-the-minute information and materials for women and families on our website and social media. All of our information is drawn from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and other trusted sources, and available in both English and Spanish. Learn more at:
Check out our Twitter handle @modhealthtalk for the latest Zika news and Twitter chats.
You can help us spread the word about the Zika virus by passing along our bilingual factsheet which tells you how to protect yourself and others from Zika.
Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.