Zika. It’s on everyone’s mind.
By now you have probably heard that Zika is a virus most frequently acquired by the bite of an infected mosquito. However, we now know that it can be sexually transmitted and causes the most damage when a woman gets it during her pregnancy, due to the negative effects it can have on the fetus. The biggest concern is that Zika infection can cause microcephaly, a neurological condition in which the newborn’s head is smaller than expected, usually due to underdevelopment of the brain.
What can you and your partner do to protect yourselves and your children from this viral illness?
Here is what couples need to know about Zika at each stage of family planning.
Trying to conceive
If you are planning to become pregnant soon, you should avoid travel to areas with local transmissions of Zika. (Check the CDC’s list of Zika outbreaks.) If you have to go for work, speak with your health care provider and follow appropriate precautions, or talk to your employer. If you do travel to a Zika-infected area, wait at least eight weeks after the onset of any symptoms, or after exposure, to attempt to conceive.
After travel to a Zika-infected area, wait at least eight weeks before having sex without a condom. If you observe symptoms of Zika, wait at least six months until after the onset of your symptoms to have unprotected sex.
Do not travel to areas with Zika. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200. If you have traveled somewhere with Zika, you should get tested, even if you don’t show any symptoms.
If you must travel to an area with Zika, use condoms for the duration of your partner’s pregnancy or avoid sex until after the baby is born.
(Psst: Planning a babymoon? Check out the 3 best Zika-free beach destinations to visit.)
There are no known reports of infants getting Zika virus through breastfeeding. Since the benefits of breastfeeding are great, the CDC encourages mothers to breastfeed even in Zika-affected areas.
Babies and children can become infected with Zika. The most common means of transmission is via infected mosquitoes. Take steps to prevent your newborn from mosquito bites.
For infants under 2 months old
Use an infant carrier covered with mosquito netting with a tight-fitting elastic edge. Dress your baby in long sleeves and long pants if you live in a Zika-infected area.
The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes. Many people with Zika are asymptomatic. If you suspect your child has been infected with Zika, speak with your health care provider right away.
If your baby is born with microcephaly, it does not necessarily mean that he has Zika. Microcephaly can happen for many reasons, and about half of the time the cause remains unknown. Genetic conditions, certain infections and various toxins can also cause microcephaly.
For children over 2 months old
Most insect repellents can be used. Avoid applying repellent to the child’s hands, eyes, mouth, or any cuts or broken skin. Do not spray insect repellent right onto child’s face. Spray it into your own hands and then apply it on your child, careful to avoid the eyes and mouth.