1. The Zika virus is actively being spread in South Florida, more specifically in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. The CDC recommends pregnant women avoid travel to these areas. If a partner must travel to this area or another affected area outside of the US, safe sex practices (such as condoms or other barrier methods) must be used to avoid sexually transmitting the disease. Pregnant who live in or frequently travel to South Florida or another affected area must be tested for Zika in their first and second trimesters.
2. Fifty-one pregnant women in New York City now have travel-related Zika, increasing the number of women affected in NYC to 505. The FDA is now recommending that blood supplies being collected in selected states, including New York, be tested for the Zika virus. This will help to reduce the spread of the virus through blood donations and transfusions.
3. For couples who are thinking about getting pregnant and have been exposed to the Zika virus: Women should wait at least 8 weeks after symptoms began before trying to get pregnant. Men should wait at least 6 months after symptoms began. (Remember, this virus can be sexually transmitted).
4. Women and men who have traveled to these areas WITHOUT exposure to the Zika virus should still wait at least 8 weeks before trying to get pregnant.
5. Zika can be sexually transmitted to sex partners even if the person is asymptomatic. “Sex” includes vaginal, anal and oral sex, and the sharing of sex toys. Currently, it is not advisable to test a person’s blood, urine, or genital secretions to determine their potential of spreading the virus. Zika can remain in semen longer than other bodily fluids, however more studies are needed to determine how long it stays in bodily fluids and how long it can be passed to sex partners.
6. The CDC recommends using an insect repellent that has been registered with the Environmental Protection Agency. Currently, five ingredients exist that have been registered and, so far, have been proven safe to use in pregnant and breastfeeding women when used as directed.
DEET (OFF, Cutter, Sawyer)
Picaridin (Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus)
Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (Repel)
IR3535 (Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition, SkinSmart)
(My choice for pregnant and breastfeeding women is oil of lemon eucalyptus which is a plant-based repellent and appears to be as effective as DEET, but does not seem to last as long. It is not known whether other “natural” or “organic” repellents are as effective as those registered with the EPA. Some may be interested in making their own organic insect repellent using lemon eucalyptus essential oil. For the purpose of Zika prevention, I can only recommend the commercially available Repel at this time. Repel’s Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, or OLE, is actually slightly different than lemon eucalyptus essential oil. OLE has a higher concentration of the active ingredient and is officially registered with the EPA as a biopesticide.)
7. No vaccine or treatment exists for the Zika virus. It is recommended to get plenty of rest, drink fluids to stay hydrated, and take acetaminophen for fever or aches. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or aspirin should not be taken.
8. Low immunity to the virus may mean that transmission rates skyrocket. This fact may partially explain why the Zika virus is now running rampant in Singapore.
9. The mosquitoes that spread Zika are aggressive daytime biters and can also bite at night.
10. Zika can be found in an infected person’s blood and can subsequently pass to another mosquito during the first week of infection. That mosquito can then spread the virus to other people.
The CDC website is the most updated source for facts about Zika virus and transmission. I recommend all women and men of childbearing age be somewhat familiar with the basic facts and precautions to take. Birth defects from Zika can last a lifetime and have many difficult implications. Always have a frank conversation with your healthcare provider and don’t hesitate to ask questions.
*Please note that no compensation has been received for the above insect repellents. These repellents have been listed by the CDC as examples and were provided to help simplify purchasing.