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Monday, February 8, 2016

An update on the Zika virus – how to protect yourself

It’s all over the news. The possible link between the Zika virus and birth defects is being investigated. Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself and your family.

Understand Zika
If you become infected with Zika during pregnancy, it may cause serious problems for your baby.
  • You can catch the Zika virus by being bitten by an infected Aedes mosquito. Mosquitos carrying the Zika virus are found in tropical areas, such as the Americas, Southern Asia, Africa and Western pacific. See this map for an up-to-date view of Zika affected areas.
  • You may also get the Zika virus through sexual contact with someone who has the virus, or through a blood transfusion.
According to the CDC:
  • A mother already infected with Zika virus near the time of delivery can pass on the virus to her newborn around the time of birth, but this is rare.
  • It is possible that Zika virus could be passed from mother to fetus during pregnancy. This mode of transmission is being investigated.
  • To date, there are no reports of infants getting Zika virus through breastfeeding. Because of the benefits of breastfeeding, mothers are encouraged to breastfeed even in areas where Zika virus is found.
Most people who have the Zika virus may not have any signs or symptoms. Others may have many symptoms including headache, fever, joint or muscle pain, pink eye, pain behind the eyes, rash and vomiting. If you have traveled to a Zika-affected area and have signs and symptoms, contact your health care provider.
What can you do?
Protect yourself.
  • If you are pregnant, think about postponing travel to Zika-affected areas.
  • If you are trying to become pregnant, talk to your health care provider before traveling to an affected area, and be sure to take steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip.
  • If you have plans to travel to an affected area, be sure to check the CDC’s website for advisories or contact the country’s local travel authorities.
Take steps to avoid mosquito bites. Use an insect repellent (bug spray) that contains DEET. Here’s how to stay safe when you use bug spray:
  • Choose one that’s registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (also called EPA). All EPA-registered insect repellents are checked to make sure they’re safe and work well.
  • Follow the instructions on the product label.
  • If you use sunscreen, put sunscreen on first and then the bug spray.
  • Don’t put insect repellent on your skin under clothes.
If you have been exposed to Zika
Contact your health care provider if you have been exposed to Zika. He may test your blood for signs of the virus.
If you have lived in or traveled to a Zika-affected area and have given birth, or if your baby has symptoms of the Zika virus, seek medical attention. Your baby’s provider will follow guidelines for testing and management.
Bottom line
Researchers are trying to understand exactly what is causing the increase in birth defects in Brazil. They are not sure if the Aedes mosquito and the Zika virus are to blame. They note that the rise in microcephaly is occurring at the same time as the increase in the Zika virus. This investigation will take some time before it is completed. In the meantime, taking precautions and following the guidelines as noted above are your safest bet.
Read our article about the Zika virus for more information. Pregnant? Trying to conceive? See the CDC’s Q/A page on Zika and pregnant women.
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