The Zika virus is quickly becoming a major medical concern for women of childbearing age in the United States. The virus, which is transmitted by the bite of a specific type of mosquito, first made headlines in early 2016 with reports that some babies born to mothers infected with Zika developed microcephaly, a devastating condition in which the brain fails to develop appropriately. Newer reports have uncovered widespread neurological issues in Zika-affected babies.
Initially, reports of Zika focused on travelers to the Caribbean and South America, where the virus was discovered. Women of childbearing age were cautioned to exercise caution and avoid mosquitos when traveling to those regions. This summer, however, a cluster of Zika cases was discovered in the Wynwood area of Miami-Dade County. Now, additional cases of the virus have been discovered in parts of Miami Beach and Palm Beach County. CDC officials expect it to spread throughout the Gulf states over the next few years.
Unlike the early US cases, these new cases are linked to local mosquitos as opposed to travelers bringing the virus into the US from elsewhere, which suggests that Zika is now being transmitted by breeding mosquitoes in the US. Additionally, we also now know that Zika can be transmitted between sexual partners.
As a result, the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) has developed guidelines for women who are pregnant or wish to become pregnant and who live or travel to South Florida. In a first of its kind, the CDC is recommending that pregnant women should avoid domestic areas where Zika is present, specifically Wynwood and Miami Beach. Women who live in the affected areas or travel there frequently should be tested for Zika during both the first and second trimesters of pregnancy, regardless of the presence of symptoms (e.g., fever, rash, conjunctivitis, and joint pain). Women who have male or female partners who have traveled to South Florida should use condoms for the duration of their pregnancy or abstain.
For women planning to become pregnant, the CDC recommends waiting to conceive for at least eight weeks after traveling to any area where Zika has been found. Women with Zika symptoms should wait at least eight weeks to conceive. Their male partners are advised to wait six months after infection with Zika. Women and men should use effective mosquito repellant whenever traveling to areas affected by Zika.
Information regarding Zika is changing quickly. To help people keep informed, the CDC has developed a site dedicated to Zika that contains the most up-to-date information available. Men or women who are of childbearing age or who are actively trying to conceive can use this site to find specific information regarding location of Zika, travel recommendations, health recommendations, and advice on how to prevent transmission of Zika.
- The Zika virus has been found in several areas in South Florida, including Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
- The CDC has updated travel advisories for pregnant women traveling to Zika-affected areas.
- We are continuing to learn more about how the virus affects developing babies.
- Zika is expected to be present in the Gulf states in the near future.