Key factors to protect against the Zika virus
By Nikol McDonald, MD
What is the Zika virus?
The Zika virus is not new to medicine, but there is still a lot we don’t know about how it affects pregnancies. We do know that it can have severe effects, especially in brain development with something called microcephaly, which can be deadly for infants. That’s why it’s really important for pregnant patients to be aware of the Zika virus.
How does the affect women?
If you are not pregnant or considering becoming pregnant, but you live in an area where the virus is active, you would want to avoid pregnancy at this time. If you are pregnant, you want to do what you can to avoid Zika virus transmission, which occurs through mosquito bites. To do that, use a mosquito repellent with DEET and educate yourself about areas where the virus is active.
Since there is news of mosquitoes carrying Zika virus in Florida, how do I protect myself?
You want to avoid those areas if you can. If you are not yet pregnant and you live in one of the active areas, you might want to avoid pregnancy until the outbreak is over. If you are in our local area and not traveling very much, the likelihood of you contracting the Zika virus is unlikely. However, if your partner is traveling to the southern U.S. or the Caribbean, be aware of the potential for sexual transmission of the Zika virus. Make sure your partner is protecting themselves by using a mosquito repellent. If you think you’ve been exposed to the Zika virus, make sure you’re tested with your doctor.
Is there a vaccine?
At this time, there’s not a vaccine. There are many trials going on to create a vaccine. The reality of vaccinations is that it takes a long time to develop an effective vaccination and have it tested. I don’t see a vaccine happening for the next few months.
What are symptoms and treatments for Zika?
Most people with the Zika virus don’t show symptoms, but if you do have symptoms, they tend to be mild. You might have a fever, rash, joint pain…some of the same symptoms you would have if you have the flu. In fact, most people end up not going to the hospital or the doctor because the symptoms tend to be mild.
If I want to have children, how does the Zika virus impact that decision?
For mothers living in our local area and considering having children, certainly if you aren’t traveling to the southern U.S or the Caribbean or other areas affected by the Zika virus, then it’s not going to impact that decision significantly. For people traveling to those areas, they would want to make sure they are tested long before they try to conceive and ensure that they are using some type of birth control until they find out that information. If you have been infected with Zika, you would want to delay pregnancy until you’ve eliminated the virus from your body.
Dr. Nikol McDonald, MD is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology, taking care of women of all ages. Dr. McDonald sees patients at her offices at Progress West Hospital in O’Fallon and at BJC Medical Group in Wentzville. She delivers babies at Progress West Hospital. To book at appointment with Dr. McDonald, call 636-928-WELL (9355).