The Zika virus has made its way to the U.S. and it represents a very real risk to women – significant enough that the Centers for Disease Control is urging pregnant women to avoid travel to two areas in Miami-Dade County Florida. It is also common in certain areas of Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, and the Pacific Islands. The reason it has been granted enough concern to prompt a warning is that it can cause significant birth defects in unborn babies who are exposed to the Zika virus.
What is Zika and How Does it Affect Women and Men?
The first thing you need is a few fast facts about Zika. The virus is carried by Aedes mosquitoes and can be transferred from one person to the next that the mosquito bites. Additionally, the disease can be spread through sexual contact with men or women.
In addition to the birth defects commonly associated with Zika virus exposure, new evidence from the CDC indicates that it may be linked with instances of the nervous system illness Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
Women who are exposed to Zika virus during pregnancy are likely to pass it on to their babies, which can lead to microcephaly, a devastating birth defect where the baby’s head is smaller than average because the brain doesn’t develop properly, and has the potential to cause additional brain problems. Because the disease is also transmitted sexually, you don’t have to be bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus to become infected with Zika virus. A partner who visits the area and gets bitten by an infected mosquito can then come into your home and transmit it to you. New research is coming our regarding men, Zika and fertility. Studies with mice show that Zika can negatively impact sperm and cause infertility in male mice. The same is likely true for humans, however, we need more research.
Symptoms of Zika virus are usually easy to overlook or dismiss and can take between two and seven days to be noted, making it even riskier. They include:
- Joint or muscle pain
- Nausea and throwing up
- Pink Eye
To make early detecting a greater possibility, use only reputable service providers to help you treat the virus or to allow to treat yourself when living or traveling to a location known for Zika virus.
Reducing Your Risk of Developing Zika
If you are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or actively undergoing infertility treatment, it is in your best interest to hold off on any attempts to become pregnant during travel to the affected regions or even in the immediate aftermath of a visit. You want to make sure there is no risk of passing the illness on to others in your community.
If you must travel to these areas in the course of your work, take every precaution to avoid exposure through either appropriate human contact or using the right kind of protection designed to send mosquitos packing.
Finally, avoid sexual intimacy with a partner who has traveled to the regions mentioned above, or any other region where Zika may be a problem, without the use of condoms.
If you are trying to conceive the best advice is to avoid Zika regions altogether whenever possible. Otherwise take appropriate precautions so that you do not risk the long-term good health of your child or infertility in your future as a result.