Should I delay pregnancy because of Zika virus and how can I protect myself?
Further testing and information are pending more research. At this time however one thing is certain, pregnancy and Zika shouldn’t go together. You might be thinking why the Zika virus is a big deal for you if you are an expectant mother? Well, before that let’s just talk about what it is and how it spreads.
The Zika virus is mainly spread by mosquito bites and sexual transmission. The virus does not cause major harm to adults. But it greatly affects babies, if the mother contracts the virus during pregnancy.
So, coming back to the question, yes, the Zika virus causes severe birth defects in newborn babies, born of Zika infected mothers. The major causes of concern about the virus are it’s peculiar and alarming connection to microcephaly. Microcephaly is essentially a neurological disorder a condition in which babies are born with a significantly smaller brain, spotting an abnormally smaller head. Compared to other babies. The resultant effect is of cause severe developmental issues and in extreme circumstances, death.
Any pregnant women or those who could become pregnant and traveling to those countries having a Zika virus outbreak have a cause for concern. Pregnant women who are residing or traveling in these areas must safeguard against this virus.
How the Zika virus is spread
Transmission of the Zika virus is primarily through the Aedes mosquito. The virus is transmitted when the Aedes mosquito bites a person with an active infection and thereafter spreading it through biting other people. The symptoms of the virus are not severe but mild and include possible pink eye, fever, headache as well as a rash. In fact, up to 80% of individuals infected with the virus never have an idea that they are infected.
Zika virus symptoms
Most people who get infected with the Zika virus do not show any symptoms. Only one of five people who get it will feel sick. The symptoms appear 3-12 days after getting the infection. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. The illness is usually mild with the symptoms lasting a week. There is no vaccine for Zika virus disease. Those who do feel sick experience symptoms that may include:
- Low-grade fever (between 37.8°C and 38.5°C)
- Joint pain, especially the small joints of your hands and feet, with possible swollen joints
- Muscle pain
- Red eyes
- Flat, red rash with small bumps
- Feeling weak and tired
- Rare symptoms include digestive problems (abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation), small ulcers in the mouth or on the tongue, and itching
Zika virus treatment
There is no specific treatment for Zika virus infection, and if symptoms develop these will typically clear up within 4-7 days. Zika infection may cause a rash that could be confused with other serious diseases such as measles or dengue, so it’s important that you check with a health care professional so that they can rule out these diseases.
Until dengue fever can be ruled out, do not take aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, as there is a risk of bleeding. Use paracetamol for pain and fever if needed. Get plenty of rest and fluids and treat the symptoms that you have. Zika virus is spread by mosquitoes that are active during the day. The best way to prevent diseases spread by mosquitoes is to avoid being bitten.
Zika virus prevention
It is recommended that if you’re traveling to any of the Pacific Island countries, you should always take precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Anyone who travels to an affected area should protect themselves from mosquito bites. You can follow the next tips to protect yourself:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Use insect repellents containing DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), or IR3535. Always use as directed.
- If you use both sunscreen and insect repellent, apply the sunscreen first and then the repellent.
- Use clothing and gear such as boots, pants, socks, and tents.
- Use bed nets to cover your sleeping area.
- Stay and sleep in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms.
- If you’re sleeping in a tent, use a zip-up screen.
Until we know more, the international organization like WHO, recommends that women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant in the near future should consider delaying travel to the areas mentioned above. See your healthcare provider if you are pregnant and develop a fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes within three weeks after traveling to a country where Zika virus infections are occurring. Be sure to tell your provider everywhere you traveled. If you do travel to an area where Zika virus infections are occurring, and you plan to become pregnant after you travel, you should consider waiting to conceive until three weeks after you have left the area.
There is no vaccine for Zika virus disease. All sectors that can assist should be engaged, and the public informed of the risks and preventive measures against Zika virus disease. People can protect themselves against mosquito bites by using insect repellent, wearing clothes that cover as much of the body as possible, and using physical barriers such as screens, closed doors, and windows.
All sectors that can assist should be engaged, and the public informed of the risks and preventive measures against Zika virus disease. Everyone should help prevent breeding of mosquitoes by emptying containers that hold standing water in and around their houses.