Zika Virus: What to Know Before You Travel

zika virus

Zika Virus: What to Know Before You Travel

With the spring equinox behind us, many are looking forward to summer travels. If you’re pregnant, or trying to conceive (TTC), that means checking in with the CDC website to verify whether your journey – or destination(s) – could bring you in contact with Zika-carrying mosquitoes.

The Zika virus is transmitted to humans via mosquito bites. While most people simply suffer with flu-like symptoms and recover (or never know they’re sick at all), health professionals made a connection between women who’d had the Zika virus and babies born with birth defects.

The virus can travel from the mother to her fetus through the bloodstream and if the baby becomes infected, there is a chance s/he can develop neural defects. The most common include:

  • Microcephaly (small head, lesser-developed brain)
  • Tube defects or other brain abnormalities
  • Eye abnormalities
  • Nervous system issues, including joint problems and deafness

While the CDC warns that physicians and researchers have noticed a slight increase in babies born with defects that are also linked to Zika in U.S. states/territories where Zika has been found (South Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico), it’s difficult to tell whether or not Zika is the actual culprit.

You can have Zika and not know it, or could have had it and assumed it was a flu; so without a positive correlation between a positive Zika test in the mother and the birth defect in the child, researchers theorize and heavily recommend that women protect themselves if they are pregnant or plan to get pregnant.

There Are Still Zika Virus Unknowns

Unfortunately, there are multiple unknowns when it comes to Zika. We don’t know:

  • If there are safe and less-safe stages in pregnancy to have Zika
  • How likely it is that Zika will spread to your fetus if you have it
  • Whether your baby will have defects if the virus spreads to him/her

For these reasons, caution – and respecting precautions – is key.

Simple Precautions Should Protect You and Your Baby From Zika

The good news is there are ways to dramatically reduce your Zika risk:

Avoid traveling to countries with Zika outbreaks

Click Here to review the CDC’s most current list. If you absolutely must travel to one of these countries, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, sleep under mosquito net, stay indoors as much as possible with good air circulation (fans are great for preventing mosquitoes from staying still long) and keep yourself covered in a high-quality mosquito repellent.

Mosquito proof your yard

Mosquitoes can fly, and they’re everywhere. However, mosquitoes are most active at sunrise and sunset, and you probably spend most of those hours at home. Follow TIME magazine’s instruction on how to Mosquito Proof Your Yard to minimize exposure.

Cover up when you’re outside

Hopefully, you’re already pretty good about covering up when you’re outside during the summer months to minimize sun exposure and dehydration. Now you have another reason – to keep those mosquitoes from biting you.

Wear –and reapply – mosquito repellant

Mosquito repellent is very effective at keeping mosquitoes from biting but it does need to be reapplied regularly. There are plenty of organic/non-toxic options on the market if you’re wary of synthetic chemicals. Consider burning citronella candles when dining au fresco or spending time outdoors when mosquitoes are active.

You may need to practice safe sex via condoms

We know, this advice isn’t that great if you’re TTC, but it turns out that men infected with the virus can still have Zika virus bodies in their sperm – long after they’re well. If you have sex and your partner’s sperm carries the virus, you can catch it from him.

Thus, the CDC recommends practicing safe sex if you’re pregnant, most specifically if your husband has travelled to a country or region on the CDC’s Zika Outbreak page.

Contact Your Doctor If You Experience Flu-like symptoms

Those who experience symptoms of the Zika virus typically complain of:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Joint/muscle pain
  • Red eyes
  • Rash

If you experience any of these symptoms while pregnant or TTC, contact your doctor – especially if you feel you’ve recently travelled to a region with a known Zika outbreak.

The team at the Fertility Center of Dallas is dedicated to keeping our patients informed. Please let us know if you have any concerns.

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