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What should pregnant women know about the Zika Virus?

Medical Moments

Heather Linder

This Medical Moment is part two of a two part series on Zika virus.

The Zika virus is related to dengue and yellow fever and primarily transmitted by the Aedes mosquito. There is no vaccine to prevent Zika. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) currently advise against travel to countries experiencing Zika outbreaks, especially for pregnant women. Countries in South and Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean have been effected by the virus. For an up to date list of effected countries, please visit the CDC website at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/zika-travel-information.

The Zika virus is diagnosed by a blood test through the CDC. Four out of five people infected with the Zika virus do not experience symptoms. Symptoms are usually mild and may last from a few days to a week and include – fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, muscle pain and headache.

However, it has been found that the virus can be spread from pregnant women to the fetus and may cause devastating birth defects, including microcephaly and brain damage. The CDC strongly recommends that pregnant women avoid travel to areas with Zika virus outbreaks.

Although there is no definitive evidence that the Zika virus causes microcephaly, current research indicates that there may be a link to the increase in microcephaly and brain damage found in Brazil and effected other areas. Microcephaly means that the baby’s head develops to be smaller than normal, and may occur when the brain has not developed appropriately during pregnancy. Microcephaly has been linked to seizures, developmental problems including disorders with speech, sitting, standing or walking, intellectual disability, movement problems, feeding problems including difficulty swallowing, hearing loss and vision problems.

There is also concern that the Zika virus may increase the risk of miscarriage. There have been two documented cases of pregnant US women that miscarried after travel abroad in which the Zika virus was detected in the placenta.

For pregnant women who have traveled to a country with Zika virus and develop symptoms within two weeks of travel, a blood test is recommended. Ultrasounds should be done to look for microcephaly and calcifications within the brain of the fetus. An amniocentesis to detect Zika virus in the amniotic fluid may also be performed. Pregnant women who do not show symptoms can still seek a blood test 2-12 weeks after travel.

***Telluride Regional Medical Center Quickfacts 2016 -For a brief update on the current state of the Telluride Regional Medical Center, growth figures for 2015, plans for a new facility in Mountain Village, as well as the funding strategy for the new facility, click here.

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