Medical City Healthcare - January 27, 2016

Booking a Babymoon? 8 Things Pregnant Women Need to Know About Zika Virus

News of the Zika virus and its potential hazards is sweeping the globe, causing concern and speculation among pregnant women or those trying to get pregnant because of its strong connection with microcephaly, a birth defect that causes an underdeveloped head and brain.

Kelli Culpepper, MD, an OBGYN on the medical staff at Medical City Dallas Hospital discusses the Zika virus and pregnancy risks and whether she would advise her pregnant patients to avoid traveling to areas affected by the Zika virus.

With the popularity of babymoons – a last romantic getaway before the arrival of a new baby – and the quick spreading, mosquito-borne virus causing outbreaks in many vacation destinations, we asked Dr. Khang Tran, Chief Medical Officer at Medical City Plano, what he would tell his own patients if they asked about Zika.

Should we cancel/postpone our Caribbean babymoon?

I would tell my patients to follow the CDC's interim guidelines, which state that pregnant women in any trimester should postpone travel to areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission.

Also, if you're trying to become pregnant, check with your doctor before you go.

I have to go for work; how can I prevent exposure to Zika?

Since transmission of Zika is almost exclusively from infected mosquitos, avoid being bitten.

  • Use an insect repellent (DEET is safe for pregnant women).
  • Cover exposed skin with long sleeves, long pants, etc.
  • Stay in screened, air-conditioned environments.
  • Be especially cautious during the day, when the Zika-carrying mosquito prefers to bite.

How else can Zika be transmitted?

Typically, Zika is transmitted in two ways:

  • Local transmission: A mosquito bites a person infected with Zika, then bites another person.
  • Imported transmission: A person traveling outside his/her country is bitten by a Zika-infected mosquito, develops Zika, and then returns home.

The virus is NOT spread from person to person, with these possible (and RARE) exceptions:

  • A pregnant women infected with Zika near the time of delivery can pass the virus to her newborn around the time of birth.
  • It's possible that Zika could be passed from mother to fetus during pregnancy.
  • Possibly through infected blood or sexual contact.

Can Zika pass through breast milk?

There are currently no reports of infants getting Zika through breastfeeding.

How strong is the link between Zika and microcephaly?

In Brazil and other areas where Zika is prevalent, research has shown that a large number of babies born with microcephaly were found to have been infected with Zika. Did it cause the microcephaly? We can't say with 100% certainty, but based on the number of cases it certainly looks like a potential link exists.

What are my chances of getting Zika?

Only 1 in 5 people bitten by a mosquito infected with Zika will actually get Zika. This could be because your immune system was on overdrive that day or the amount of the virus carried by the mosquito was very small.

What can I expect if I do get Zika?

In an otherwise healthy person, Zika is relatively mild and lasts a few days to a week (during which time you should avoid being bitten by mosquitos and transmitting it to others).

Symptoms of the Zika virus include:

  • Body aches
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • Fever
  • Joint Pain
  • Rash
  • Muscle pain and headache (less common)

There is no vaccine or cure for Zika; treat it like a cold or flu virus, with plenty of:

  • Acetaminophen (and/or ibuprofen if you're not pregnant)
  • Fluids
  • Rest

Is there a test for me or my baby?

Currently, the only agency testing for Zika is the CDC and a few state health departments. If you've recently returned from one of the outbreak areas and develop symptoms, your healthcare provider may contact a state or local health department to facilitate testing.

There is no in-utero test to see if your baby has the virus. However, if one of my pregnant patients reported these symptoms after returning from a trip, I would refer her to a maternal fetal medicine doctor; essentially a high-risk OB. He or she would probably order more frequent ultrasounds to make sure the baby's head growth was keeping up with the rest of the body.

If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, common sense dictates postponing travel to Zika transmission areas, taking extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites, and being aware of potential symptoms. To find doctors and hospitals that can provide the most current information about Zika and offer the support you need, visit WeDeliverDreams.

About Dr. Tran

Khang Tran, MD

Chief Medical Officer at Medical City Plano

Dr. Tran is board-certified in internal medicine and is the Chief Medical Officer at Medical City Plano. He graduated from Southern Methodist University and received his medical degree from The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School.

Zika in the News

Dr. Andrea Arguello, OBGYN on the medical staff at Medical City Las Colinas, shared what pregnant women need to know about Zika virus with WFAA.

CDC Zika Home
CDC Travel
CDC Interim Guidelines
CDC Zika Posters (pdf)

Sign Up for Our E-Newsletter