Many have our patients have expressed concern about the Zika virus outbreak which has been in the news recently. The Zika virus spreads through infected mosquitos and less commonly spreads via sexual transmission. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) issued a travel alert for people traveling to countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing, including Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and most recently in the United States in Southern Florida and Brownsville, TX. There have been 6 cases of documented local transmission of the Zika virus in Cameron County in Brownsville, TX as on January 2017. There is currently no evidence of widespread, sustained local transmission of Zika at this time. The CDC website www.cdc.gov will keep an updated list of countries where transmission has been confirmed.
Since little is known about Zika virus in pregnancy, but pregnancy complications have been reported, we are advising our patients to postpone travel to these areas. If travel cannot be avoided, precautions to avoid mosquito bites should be taken. These measures include using an EPA-registered bug spray with DEET, covering exposed skin, staying in air-conditioned or screened in areas and treating clothing with permethrin.
If you are pregnant and have traveled recently to an area with ongoing Zika virus transmission, please let your provider know. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes but many infections do not cause symptoms. The need for testing and additional fetal ultrasounds and consultation with maternal fetal medicine specialist and possible amniocentesis will be determined for at risk patients since the virus can affect fetal growth and development.
Until more is known, pregnant women with male sex partners who have lived in or traveled to an area with Zika virus should either use condoms or not have sex during the pregnancy.
There is currently no antiviral treatment or vaccine for the Zika virus, therefore avoiding exposure is highly recommended for our pregnant patients and those desiring pregnancy in the near future. We will continue to monitor this evolving situation and adjust recommendations as needed.
Recent guidelines were issued regarding family planning. If a woman has been diagnosed with Zika or has symptoms of Zika after possible exposure, the CDC recommends she wait at least eight weeks after her symptoms first appear before trying to get pregnant.
If a man has been diagnosed with Zika or has symptoms of the illness, he should wait at least six months from those first signs before having unprotected sex, according to the public-health agency. That longer waiting period reflects the length of time the virus has been found in semen — 62 days — with additional months added to minimize risk. In making the recommendations, the CDC said it considered the longest known risk period and then multiplied that by three.
As new guidelines emerge, we will be updating our website to reflect the ongoing changes.