The Zika virus is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. For those who show signs of a Zika infection, the illness is often mild. On the other hand, the effects can be devastating for pregnant women. If you’re pregnant—or trying to conceive—the Zika virus is probably a top-of-mind concern when traveling to infected areas. This mosquito-borne virus can have potentially devastating consequences for pregnant women and their babies. It can cause birth defects called microcephaly and other severe brain problems. The virus can also be transmitted sexually, according to the CDC.
Symptoms of the Zika virus are similar to a mild care of the flu. Most symptoms begin 2-7 days after being exposed to the virus. You can be sick with Zika for several days to a week. The most common signs and symptoms include:
Only 20 percent of people infected with the Zika virus will actually become ill, according to Cynthia Moore, M.D., Ph.D., of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
For pregnant women, the Zika virus during pregnancy causes microcephaly, when a baby’s head is smaller than expected, often times smaller brains that never develop fully. The virus can also be linked to the following:
Zika also may be linked to:
About 1 in 10 pregnant women with Zika infection in the United States has a baby with birth defects. Pregnant women with Zika infection during the first trimester may be more likely to have a baby with birth defects than women infected later in pregnancy.
Protect yourself from the Zika virus by simply not traveling to affected areas. Zika-infested areas currently include the Caribbean, Central America, Brazil, and Fiji. In late July 2016 Miami, Florida had some cases of mosquito-borne transmission of Zika but subsequent increased mosquito control measures have likely lowered the risk of spread. Learn about other areas here.
If you contracted the Zika virus, make sure to get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids and take acetaminophen to relieve the fever and pain. If you are pregnant and traveling to an affect area, talk to your OB/GYN provider on best practices to protect you and your baby.