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Baby Your Baby: Preventing Zika Virus in pregnant women

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Baby Your Baby: Preventing Zika Virus in pregnant women (File photo: MGN Online)

(KUTV) Summer is almost here and we wanted to talk about preventing Zika virus for pregnant women who are planning to travel to areas where Zika is being spread.

The concern for pregnancy is that the virus causes birth defects including microephaly and a collapsed skull, which means a baby’s head is small and the child has a smaller-than-average brain. This can affect the child’s motor development and can cause learning disabilities.

Other problems include calcifications in the brain, eye problems, and damage to joints and muscles that limit the baby’s ability to move.

The Zika virus is primarily spread by the Aedes mosquitos, which can bite during the day. Reports of transmission through blood and sexual contact are being investigated.

For Utah women who are not traveling to areas where the virus is spreading, the risk of getting a Zika virus infection is minimal. Pregnant women should avoid travel to those areas where Zika is being spread, if possible. If a pregnant woman must travel to one of the affected countries, precautions should be taken. These include using mosquito repellant containing DEET, wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, and removing standing water. Pregnant women that traveled to those areas should watch for symptoms of infection including fever, headaches, joint and muscle pain, rash, and “pinkeye.” If symptoms are present, they should talk with their doctor and treat the symptoms, especially the fever.

Not everyone has symptoms, so women who traveled to those areas where Zika is spread should avoid becoming pregnant for 8 weeks.

If their partners traveled to those areas, condoms should be used to prevent pregnancy for at least 6 months since the Zika virus can survive longer in men’s semen and can be transmitted through sex.

If women have questions or need the fact sheets on fever or DEET, they can visit our new local website at MotherToBaby.utah.gov where we can help by phone, email, or chat.

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