Late last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a Level 2 Alert for Zika virus, a relatively unknown mosquito borne disease. Prior to 2015, Zika virus outbreaks had been identified in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. In May of last year, The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert about the first confirmed Zika case in Brazil, prompting serious regional concerns. Currently, outbreaks are occurring in many countries throughout the Americas, including Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
Zika virus is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito – the same type of mosquito that spreads Dengue and Chikungunya. Although an estimated 80% of those infected are asymptomatic, common symptoms of Zika can include fever, joint pain, conjunctivitis, muscle pain, and headache. Maternal-fetal transmission of Zika virus has been documented during pregnancy, and a link between Zika infection and microcephaly has been identified. Although further research is needed to fully assess this relationship, Brazil has seen a marked increase in the number of infants born with microcephaly during this current outbreak, prompting public health officials to take extra precautions for pregnant women.
There is no vaccine to prevent Zika virus, and as of right now our best defense against mosquito bites continues to be long sleeves and pants, mosquito repellant, and bed nets. In concurrence with CDC’s recommendation and out of an abundance of caution, Golden Gate Obstetrics and Gynecology is currently recommending that all pregnant women, and those thinking about becoming pregnant, avoid travel to any country currently experiencing transmission of Zika virus.
If you have recently been to a country where Zika virus is present, we ask that you please contact our office. Pregnant women with a history of travel to an area with current transmission of Zika virus who report at least two or more symptoms during or within two weeks of travel can submit a blood sample to our office to be tested by CDC. Women who are asymptomatic, but have traveled to an affected country may be offered an ultrasound to evaluate their baby for microcephaly and other congenital malformations. Although there is no treatment or intervention to prevent microcephaly, ultrasound evaluation will allow us to closely monitor growth for evidence of this condition, and prepare for a high-risk delivery if the baby is affected.
If you have any additional questions or concerns, please feel free to contact our Obstetrical Coordinator Kirstie Ruby at 415-831-2198 or via the portal.
Images courtesy of The Centers for Disease Control and Sanofi Pasteur