02 Aug Obstetrics and the Zika Virus: Things to Consider
The Zika virus is named after the Zika Forest in Uganda, and was first discovered in 1947. The first human patients with Zika were reported five years later. Since then, there have been numerous outbreaks of the Zika virus in Africa, the Pacific Islands and Southeast Asia. It was first reported in Brazil in 2015.
While there have been cases of the Zika virus reported in the United States, they have so far all involved people who had traveled to areas with infected mosquitos. Regarding obstetrics, if the virus infects a pregnant woman, it can cause microcephaly and other birth defects involving the brain.
What is Microcephaly?
Microcephaly is a condition in which a child is born with an abnormally small head. In severe cases, they will also have a forehead that slopes backwards. While some children with microcephaly show normal intelligence and development, other children are mentally challenged. Other symptoms associated with microcephaly include seizures, short stature, hyperactivity, impaired balance and/or coordination and developmental delays in speech, crawling and/or walking.
How is Microcephaly Detected During Pregnancy?
The obstetrician performs a fetal ultrasound, which enables the doctor to assess the anatomy of the developing baby and thus spot any abnormalities. While it can be done as early as the 18th week, a fetal ultrasound detects microcephaly more reliably in the late second trimester or early third trimester.
How Do People Get Zika?
The Zika virus is transmitted by the bite of a mosquito belonging to the Aedes genus. People may also get the virus by having sex with an infected man. Regarding obstetrics, if a pregnant woman gets infected, she will transmit the virus to her baby.
The Zika virus generally causes mild symptoms, with the most common including rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis and fever. Most people who get Zika generally do not get sick enough to need to go to the hospital. In many cases, the patient’s symptoms are so mild that they don’t even know they have Zika. The illness lasts anywhere from several days to about a week.
So far, the mosquitos carrying the Zika virus have not spread to any of the 50 states. They have, however, spread to a number of US territories, including American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
How Do You Prevent the Zika Virus?
Unfortunately, there is currently no vaccine. Therefore, the only way to avoid catching the virus is by staying away from known sources. That means not traveling to areas known to have infected mosquitoes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains a website listing countries with infected mosquitoes. Pregnant women, in particular, should avoid countries listed as having an active Zika outbreak.
If someone has to travel to a country that has had a Zika outbreak, they should take steps to avoid getting bitten. They should wear long pants and long sleeves, and they should use insect repellent. They should use mosquito netting, especially if they are sleeping outside or in a place that does not have air conditioning. People should also either avoid having sex with an infected man, or they should insist that the man wear a condom to prevent the spread of the virus.
Regarding obstetrics and the Zika virus, the experts at the Women’s Care Center in Bakersfield will be happy to answer any questions you may have. The health of you and your developing baby is our top priority. Contact us today to schedule your appointment to learn more.