Zika Virus: What Expectant Parents Should Know

The Zika virus has been in the news a lot lately. It’s a legitimate concern, especially for couples who are expecting or planning a pregnancy in the next month or so.


Learn more in this video report on what you need to know if you’re expecting.

Here’s what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say:

Zika virus spreads to people through mosquito bites of the Aedes species of mosquitoes. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are:

  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Joint pain
  • Conjunctivitis (red eyes)

The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.

Outbreaks of Zika have occurred in areas of Africa, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the Americas. Because the Aedes species mosquitoes that spread Zika virus are found throughout the world, it’s likely that outbreaks will spread to new countries.

To date, there are no known cases of Zika disease that resulted from a person being bitten by an Aedes mosquito in the U.S. There have been cases reported in Puerto Rico and in travelers returning from outbreak areas.

Zika Virus and Pregnancy

Zika virus can be spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus. There have been reports of birth defects and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant.

Until more is known, CDC recommends special precautions for pregnant women and those who are planning pregnancy:

  • Pregnant women should consider postponing travel to the areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Pregnant women who must travel to one of these areas should talk to their doctor or other health care professional first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip. Until we know more, if your male sexual partner has traveled to or lives in an area with active Zika virus transmission, you should abstain from sex or use condoms the right way every time you have vaginal, anal and oral sex for the duration of the pregnancy. (August 2016 update) The CDC has issued a travel advisory warning pregnant women to not travel to Miami Beach, Fla. Pregnant women who are concerned about exposure to Zika should consider avoiding the Wynwood and Miami Beach sections of Miami-Dade County. As of Aug. 17, there have been 14 locally acquired mosquito-borne Zika cases reported in the U.S. These were acquired in the U.S., not travel-related.
  • Women trying to become pregnant should consult with their health care professional before traveling to these areas and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the trip.

Scientists at CDC and the Pan American Health Organization are working with public health experts in Brazil and other affected countries to investigate the link between Zika virus infection and microcephaly, a birth defect that results in a baby with a smaller than normal head.

If you have questions about Zika or the safety of travel, ask your health care professional.

Meet the Author

Anna Marie B. Windsor, MD is an OBGYN at Aurora Advanced Healthcare in Milwaukee, WI.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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