Q: I am planning to get pregnant soon. What do I need to know about the Zika virus?
A: Zika was first reported in May 2015 in South America and, since then, has spread throughout the Americas. Updates on where transmission of the Zika virus has been identified can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website (www.cdc.gov).
The virus spreads to humans primarily through infected mosquitoes. Currently, there is no vaccine or medication to prevent Zika virus infection.
All travelers to, or residents of, areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission should be advised to strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites because of the potential for exposure to Zika.
Antiviral treatment is not currently available for Zika virus disease; treatment is supportive and includes rest, fluids and medicines to control pain and fever.
Sexual transmission of Zika virus can occur, although there is limited data about the risk.
The risk for sexual transmission of Zika virus can be eliminated by abstinence and reduced by the correct and consistent use of condoms.
Given the potential risks of maternal Zika virus infection, pregnant women whose male partners have or are at risk for Zika virus infection should consider using condoms or abstaining from sexual intercourse.
Symptoms of the disease might include fever, rash, joint aches and conjunctivitis. It appears that only about one in five infected individuals will exhibit these symptoms, and most of them will have mild symptoms.
It is not known if pregnant women are at greater risk of infection than everyone else. It is recommended that Zika virus testing be performed on pregnant women who have a clinical illness consistent with Zika virus disease during or within two weeks of travel to areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission.
Increasing evidence supports the link between Zika infection during pregnancy and adverse pregnancy outcomes such as pregnancy loss, microcephaly and other brain and eye abnormalities.
Frequent fetal ultrasounds should be considered to monitor fetal anatomy and growth every three to four weeks in pregnant women with positive or inconclusive Zika virus test results, and referral to a maternal-fetal medicine specialist is recommended.
At this point, if you are not planning travel to an area with known Zika virus transmission you should be safe to proceed with trying for pregnancy.
Your obstetrician-gynecologist should be familiar with all the recent updates and can discuss your specific case and concerns with you.
Dr. Joanne Price Williamson is an obstetrician-gynecologist who practices at Provident OB/GYN Associates-Legacy Center in Okatie.