Zika Virus and Pregnancy

Information below is from the HealthWiki located on the Hesperian Health Guides website. Click here for more information

The Zika virus is spread by black mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus) with bands of white dots that look like white stripes. Their legs are also striped. These are the same mosquitoes that can carry dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever viruses. Zika virus causes a mild fever, rash, and body aches, usually for a few days only. Many people who get it develop no signs. It can be hard to tell which virus a person has if Zika, dengue, and chikungunya are all present in your region.

Health officials believe it is possible that Zika can be dangerous for a baby growing in the womb if the mother contracts Zika during pregnancy. However, Zika has been around for generations. Since it was discovered (1947) it has never been linked to such adverse birth outcomes until recently.

In Brazil, following an outbreak of Zika, some babies were born with a serious condition called microcephaly–a birth defect involving an abnormally small head and incomplete brain development. Now, scientists are concerned that there is a link between Zika and the birth defect microcephaly. Babies with microcephaly may die at birth or may live for many years but have problems developing physically and mentally. Because of this, all women and especially women who might be pregnant should try to prevent mosquito bites by covering up with clothing, using mosquito repellents, and keeping mosquitoes away by using screens and bed nets in the home.

If you are thinking about getting pregnant, it is a good idea to wait until after Zika is no longer affecting people in your community. Ensuring that birth control is made accessible to all women is an important way to limit harm from the Zika virus.


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