Zika virus & pregnancy: Am I at risk?

Zika virus & pregnancy:  Am I at risk?

The short answer is NO. Unless you or your sexual partner have traveled to a high risk area outside of the United States or to certain parts of south Florida in the past few months, you are not likely at risk for contracting Zika.

As of March 21, 2016, local mosquito-borne transmission of Zika virus had been reported in 32 countries and territories in the Americas, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. To date, the only known mosquito-borne transmission of the virus in the continental United States have been in certain parts of south Florida.

There are reports of both male to female and female to male sexual transmission of the virus. Most people infected with Zika virus will have a very mild illness or be completely without symptoms.

There is a possible link between the Zika virus infection and Guillain-Barre’ syndrome, a disease characterized by progressive muscle weakness. This syndrome is usually self-limited and resolves after several weeks. There is currently no medication to treat Zika-related disease and there is not a vaccine available against Zika.

Zika & Pregnancy

Of particular concern to obstetricians is the link between Zika virus infection during pregnancy and adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes. Possible problems associated with Zika virus infection during pregnancy includes fetal microcephaly (small head and brain), abnormal neurological function and fetal death.

To date, all mothers delivering infants affected by Zika virus infection born in the United States contracted the viral infection outside of the United States.

Although the likelihood of contracting a Zika virus infection is low, we suggest that women who are pregnant or considering pregnancy in the near future and their sexual partners, take these precautions:

  • Avoid travel to areas with significant numbers of Zika virus infections. This includes much of the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central and South America, and certain parts of south Florida.
  • Use mosquito repellent when outdoors in seasons when mosquito bites are common. Repellent with DEET is considered safe in pregnancy and is recommended.
  • If your sexual partner does travel to a high risk area, it is suggested that condoms be utilized during the remainder of the pregnancy.

At this time, there is very little to no chance of contracting Zika virus through a mosquito bite in West Virginia, Kentucky or Ohio. So, there is no need to do Zika virus testing in women who have not traveled to a high risk area.

What we know about Zika virus transmission is constantly being updated, and if you are pregnant or are considering pregnancy you should keep yourself informed. Updated Zika information from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is available at http://www.acog.org/zika.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask your obstetrician about Zika virus infection and pregnancy or call Marshall Obstetrics & Gynecology at 304 691-1400 to schedule an appointment.

Photo source:  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Public Health Image Library


David Jude, MD

Dr. Jude is a board-certified OB/GYN and professor and chair of the department of obstetrics & gynecology at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.