Planning a baby while traveling to Zika affected country still needs a lot of thought.
An epidemic of Zika in 2015 in South and Central America and the Caribbean shocked the world.This virus when infecting pregnant woman was possibly responsible for serious developmental problems in the fetal brain.
Many countries in Asia is endemic for this virus.But traveling to endemic countries is less dangerous than countries with an ongoing Zika epidemic
This previously unheard of virus took the world by storm.
The scare unfortunately continues.With the 2016 Olympic in Brazil in August certain precautions for travel needed looking into.Even though the virus causes a simple infection in adults, its effect can be terrible on the developing fetal brain.
The strange thing about this mosquito born virus is , it can be sexually transmitted.That makes it doubly dangerous for women planning a baby.
1) List of countries with active Zika infection reported is regularly updated at CDC.Check it out before planning your travel.
2)What causes Zika?
Zika is a type of flavivirus.It is mosquito born. Aedes species of mosquito causes this disease.Protection against mosquito bite will help keep you safe.
Best Ways to Protect against mosquito bites:
- Mosquito net to prevent mosquito bites
- Covered clothing with minimal skin exposure.
- EPA-registered insect repellent should be used.
- Don’t let water accumulate in open containers.
Some studies suggest Zika might be Sexually transmissible.(1,2,3)
Feto- maternal transmission. Zika will infect the baby if mom is pregnant and has Zika infection.
3)How long is the risk of transmission?
Both men and women can transmit the virus to their Sexual Partners
Limited data at present on persistence of Zika virus RNA in blood and semen (2,3,4).
For men:6 months after symptom onset to plan a baby
For women:8 weeks after symptoms start you can plan your conception.
4)Zika virus Symptoms
- Mostly no symptoms (5).
- If present they are mild.
- Pain in the bones and joints
- Conjunctivitis (eye infection )
- Hearing defect (5).
Incubation period for Zika virus disease is:3–14 days (3,6)
Duration of Zika viremia: few days to 1 week (6);
5)What is Zika Exposure?(7)
- You live in an area with reported Zika cases.
- You have traveled to a Zika affected region.
- Unprotected sex with a man who is exposed
Correct and consistent use of a condom can prevent Sexual transmission of Zika infection.
6)What test will be done in suspected Zika infection?
A) Testing of women with symptoms of Zika infection during travel or within 2 weeks of exposure.
- Zika virus reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).
- Zika IgM (immunoglobulin M) in serum
- Neutralizing antibodies in serum
- Rule out other virus infection like Dengue and Chikungunya
B) Testing of pregnant women without clinical illness but history of exposure
- Zika virus IgM.
If Ig M test result is positive or indeterminate, neutralizing antibodies on serum specimens.
Its recommended the test should be done. 2–12 weeks after travel.
When do you say Zika infection positive?
- Zika RNA in a clinical sample
- Zika virus IgM will be positive.
- Titers of Zika virus neutralizing antibody should be <4 fold higher than that of Dengue virus.
Serial fetal ultrasounds: Recommended in Zika infected pregnant women
6)What can happen if someone has Zika infection and is pregnant?
The exact amount of risk associated: still under research.
According to this study (12), microcephaly can affect up to 1% of fetuses or infants born to women infected with Zika virus, during the first trimester of pregnancy.
A Brazil-based study found 29%of women with lab-confirmed Zika infection during their pregnancy with various fetal problems.
Zika Virus baby problems:(8-11)
- Microcephaly(Small head and brain )
- Intracranial calcifications, other brain abnormalities
- Abnormal cerebral artery flow
- Intrauterine growth restriction
- Eye infection
- Hearing Problem
- Fetal death (13).
Zika infection in early pregnancy (less than 7 weeks) is more likely to cause a more severe effect.As a major part of fetal brain development occurs within the first 12 weeks of gestation.
What exactly is microcephaly?
When the size of the head is significantly small, due to decreased fetal brain development .
What can cause this microcephaly?
- Infections during pregnancy:Rubella,Toxoplasmosis,Cytomegalovirus, Zika
- Severe malnutrition, meaning a lack of nutrients or not getting enough food
- Harmful product exposure: alcohol, certain drugs, or toxic chemicals
- Anoxia or low oxygenation of the baby brain due to reduced blood supply.
Microcephaly is multifactorial.It can have genetic and environmental causes.It can manifest as mental retardation, cerebral palsy and epilepsy, eye and hearing defects.
7)Should you get tested for Zika if you have been exposed but no symptoms?
Local health officials will help decide when to implement testing of asymptomatic pregnant women.This is based on information about levels of Zika virus transmission and laboratory capacity.
Mainly supportive.No specific medicines available.
9)No vaccine is available.
10)No data is available regarding effect on future pregnancies
1)If you are pregnant, planning to get pregnant definitely consult your doctor before traveling to countries with reported Zika cases.
2) Correct and consistent use of a condom can protect against Sexual transmission of Zika .
3)The risk of Sexual transmissible with asymptomatic infection is unknown and needs more research.Men who have suspected Zika infection needs to wait to east 8 weeks or longer before planning a baby.
You can protect your unborn child fromZika.Just plan your pregnancy.
Update:India & Zika May 28th 2017
WHO has confirmed 3 cases of Zika in India.Samples were apparently sent as early as January this year but result not announcedGovernment.All cases are from Gujrat .(source)Though phase 2 Zika
Zika Virus Vaccine: Though phase 2 Zika Virus vaccine trial has started in the US, results are still a long way off!
Do you know about Zika virus.Let me know in the comments below.
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Disclaimer: The information provided here is an attempt to empower you to take more informed decisions and is not to be considered as replacement for professional medical advice.