As the majority of the nation braves winter temperatures, a mosquito-borne virus that causes birth defects is thriving in the southern parts of the United States. Any place with temperatures of 50-60 degrees is at risk with Florida, Texas, and The Gulf Coast facing the biggest threat.
The Zika Virus infects pregnant women and their fetuses, causing a rare neurological condition known as microcephaly. One adamant characteristic of microcephaly is the noticeably tiny brains on infants. In some cases, microcephaly from the Zika virus can cause developmental delays and is potentially deadly. Symptoms of the Zika virus in expecting mothers include fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes; however, 80 percent of individuals report no symptoms
To date, all reported cases of the Zika virus in the U.S. have been from traveling, although the virus is anticipated to travel further north as the weather warms up over the next few months. There is no vaccine or anti-viral drug available to treat the Zika virus, so it is advised that expecting mothers postpone travel to various areas and take extra precautions to dodge mosquitos.
Since the Zika virus isn’t going away any time soon, it is crucial that physicians educate pregnant women about the risks of the virus and offer insight regarding how to protect themselves and their expected child from the bite of a virus-borne mosquito.
Fast Facts About the Zika Virus
- The disease is transmitted by the bite of aedes aegypti mosquitos (which like to live inside)
- Aedes aegypti mosquitos bite all day long
- The threat is serious enough for the Salvadorian Vice Minister of Health to advise women not to get pregnant for two years
- There is no treatment or vaccine is available
- Since October, 3500 babies were born with microcephaly in Brazil
- The Zika virus became a global threat in November
How to Protect Yourself From Mosquitos
- Dump standing water (anything there for more than 5 days) onto dry ground. Any larvae will die when the water evaporates and dries.
- Wear insect repellent with DEET or picaridin. According to the CDC, these repellents ARE safe for pregnant women.
- Be weary of traveling
- Avoid: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Barbados, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guadeloupe, Saint Martin, Guyana, Cape Verde and Samoa
- If you have traveled to any of these places while pregnant, get a pregnancy screening
Since the weather is still moderately cold in most parts of the U.S., expecting mothers may brush off any thought that they could become infected; however, with warmer days ahead of us, this isn’t the last we’ll hear about these pesky, poking mosquitos.