By Melissa Wolf, MD, Bozeman Health Women’s Specialists
Zika virus is spread primarily to people through the bite of an infected
mosquito. These mosquitos are most active during daytime hours but can
also bite at night. Zika virus can also be sexually transmitted by a man
to his sexual partners.
The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes.
These symptoms are often mild and many people may not realize they have
been infected. Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly,
a serious birth defect of the fetal brain. Not all pregnant women infected
with Zika virus will have a baby with a birth defect. Currently, the likelihood
that a baby will develop birth defects from Zika infection is unknown,
or if one trimester is more dangerous to be infected than others.
Unfortunately, at the present time there is no vaccine to prevent Zika
virus and no medication to treat Zika once a person has been infected.
Still, there are many things you can do to protect yourself and your baby
from Zika virus and to reduce your chances of infection. If you are pregnant,
the CDC recommends that you delay travel to areas known to have Zika virus.
Travel advisories are updated frequently at
www.cdc.gov/zika. If your sexual partner has traveled to an area with Zika virus, you should
use condoms every time you have sex or avoid sex for the remainder of
your pregnancy. Tell your health care provider immediately if you or your
sexual partner have traveled or are planning to travel to an area known
to have Zika virus.
Prevention of mosquito bites is the best defense if you are in an area
known to have Zika virus. Wear long sleeves and pants, use permethrin-treated
clothing, and stay in areas with window and door screens that keep mosquitos
outside. At night, sleep under a mosquito net. Insect repellant works
well and is safe and effective for pregnant and breastfeeding women. The
CDC recommends use of a repellant with one of the following active ingredients:
DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or paramenthandiol.
Do not apply insect repellant on the skin under your clothing. If you
are also using sunscreen, apply the sunscreen first and then apply the
If you or your sexual partner have symptoms of Zika virus, contact your
healthcare provider for testing. At present, Zika virus testing is only
being done in consultation with the Health Department and the CDC, although
tests are in development that will make widespread testing more readily
available. If you test positive for Zika during pregnancy, your healthcare
provider will most likely recommend that you have several ultrasounds
during pregnancy to check the growth and development of your baby.
What healthcare providers know about Zika virus infection and its effects
on pregnancy is constantly changing as we learn more about this disease.
For the most up to date information on virus transmission, testing, treatment
and for travel advisories, visit
www.cdc.gov/zika. Remember, currently, there is no treatment for Zika virus so prevention
is your best defense.