What is Zika virus, and what is its mode of transmission?

Zika virus is spread through mosquitoes, but not all mosquitoes carry the Zika virus. Not everyone bitten by a mosquito carrying the Zika Virus would get infected. People at risk of getting the Zika virus have travelled to areas with a high risk of active Zika transmission.

People can also contract the Zika virus through sexual contact (anal, oral or vaginal sex) with an infected person. The transmission of the Zika virus transmission also occurs from an infected pregnant mother to her baby during childbirth and blood transfusions.

No evidence is available to show that the Zika virus gest transmitted through sneezing, saliva or coughing.

What are the symptoms of the Zika virus?

Most people infected with the Zika virus do not show symptoms. When Zika virus symptoms occur, they are similar to mild flu-like symptoms. Such as muscle and joint pain, rashes, headaches, conjunctivitis (pink eye), and fever.

The symptoms may occur from 3 – 7 days after contracting the infection. It may last for several days to one week. People infected with the Zika virus can treat the symptoms, but there is no vaccine or cure for the virus.

Even after treating Zika virus symptoms, an infected person can still transmit the virus during sex. Also an infected mother can transmit the Zika virus to her baby.

Does the Zika virus increase the risk of a miscarriage during pregnancy?

Yes, it does. Being infected with the Zika virus increases the risk of stillbirth and miscarriage.

Does the Zika virus increase the risk of congenital disability?

A woman has about 3 – 5% chances of having a baby with a congenital disability during pregnancy. This is known as her background risk. But she can pass the virus to her baby if she contracts the Zika virus during pregnancy. This increases the baby’s risk of having a congenital disability and developmental problems, called Congenital Zika Syndrome (CZS).

Babies with CZS may have microcephaly (small brain and head), hearing loss, severe brain defects, seizures, eye defects or limb and joint movement problems. Babies with the Zika virus also have growth problems. Still, in some cases, the infected baby would experience the effect of the Zika infection. They have a slowed brain and head growth after a while (postnatal microcephaly).

About 5 – 14% of babies from women infected with the Zika virus during pregnancy have neurodevelopmental problems such as trouble swallowing, seizures, and developmental delay or congenital disabilities. In some cases, the babies have both conditions.

Some of these developmental problems are not obvious at birth but occur during the first year of the baby’s life. Research is ongoing to know the Zika virus effects during pregnancy.

Does getting infected with the Zika virus in the second or third trimester cause pregnancy complications?

Having the Zika virus during pregnancy increases the risk of congenital disabilities and other CZS-related problems. Although there is limited research, Zika virus infection during the early stages of pregnancy may have a greater risk.

How can I protect myself from the Zika virus during pregnancy?

You can prevent the Zika virus by avoiding travels to areas with a high risk of Zika virus infection. If you have to travel to an area with an increased risk for Zika virus infection, use insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites.

Since you can also contract the Zika virus through sex, ensure your partner does not have the Zika virus.  If your partner lives or has travelled to a high-risk area, try avoiding sex with your partner or using protection during any form of sexual activity throughout your pregnancy.

How long do I  need to wait before getting pregnant if I had sex with an infected person or travelled to a place with a high risk for Zika virus infection?

Women who may have been exposed to the Zika virus through sex or travel should wait for about two months before getting pregnant, even if Zika virus symptoms are not present. The waiting period essential for women health.

Men who travelled to an area with a high risk of Zika virus infection or had exposure to the virus through sex should wait for at least three months before trying to get their partner pregnant, even if symptoms are not present.

During the waiting period, ensure you use barrier methods like condoms and dental dams and an effective birth control method to prevent pregnancy and transmission of the virus if it is present.

If I had the Zika virus several months ago, is there a risk of congenital disabilities occurring in future pregnancies?

Waiting for at least three months (men) and two months (women) gives the virus time to clear from the body. After the virus clears, the risk of complications and congenital disabilities from the Zika virus reduces. Present evidence shows that it’s unlikely to get re-infected with the Zika virus after an initial infection clears.

Can I get tested for the Zika virus?

Yes, you can. However, not everyone needs testing for Zika virus positive. If you had exposure to the Zika virus, talk to your healthcare provider about getting a test for the Zika virus.

In some cases, the healthcare provider would recommend dengue virus and Zika virus testing. People without symptoms do not get Zika virus testing often. But pregnant women concerned about having the Zika virus can talk to their healthcare provider to decide on testing.

Zika virus testing for men to know if they can transmit the virus to their partner is not available because there is no Zika virus test for semen. Men who have a pregnant partner should use a condom during sex. And men planning to have a baby should wait a minimum of three months even if the Zika pregnancy blood test results were negative.

What will happen if my Zika virus test during pregnancy is positive or unclear?

If you are pregnant and have a positive or unclear Zika virus test result, the healthcare provider will monitor the baby’s growth during the pregnancy. The woman may need frequent ultrasounds, also called serial ultrasounds, every 3 – 4 weeks and a test to check for Zika virus infection in the baby.

Although Zika virus increases the risk of congenital disabilities, it does not automatically mean the baby of an infected mother would have neurodevelopmental problems or congenital disabilities.

What will happen if I travelled to an area with the Zika virus during pregnancy and did not get tested?

During pregnancy, babies exposed to the Zika virus need a physical examination at birth and during every visit to the hospital. Infants with congenital disabilities common to CZS and those whose mothers had Zika virus during pregnancy would receive additional testing.

Can I breastfeed if I have the Zika virus?

Zika virus is present in the breast milk of infected mothers, but there is no report of infants getting the Zika virus through breastmilk. Research is ongoing to know the long-term effects of the Zika virus in children and infants.

However, most children and infants who get the Zika virus from moFsquito bites show no symptoms. When symptoms occur, they are mild, similar to Zika virus infection in adults.

Current evidence shows that the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the potential risks of the Zika virus through breastfeeding. Ensure you consult your doctor about breastfeeding if you have the Zika virus.

If you had exposure to the Zika virus or have concerns about the virus and pregnant, visit London GP Clinic to consult a healthcare provider. You can call us to schedule an appointment with our experienced doctor.

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