Zika and Pregnancy: What You Should Know

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Zika and Pregnancy: What You Should Know

In recent years, the Zika virus has caused a veritable epidemic in several American countries. For the majority of people, this virus is benign: only pregnant women should be wary of it because it sometimes causes fetal malformations.

Zika and Pregnancy: What You Should Know
Zika and Pregnancy: What You Should Know

Zika virus: what are the modes of transmission?

  • The Zika virus is mainly transmitted by the bite of the tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), but there are also some cases of sexual transmission, from man to woman (the virus can be found in sperm). This virus can also be transmitted from the mother to the fetus, but this is not systematic …
  • The Zika virus was first identified in humans in the 1970s, first in Africa and then in Asia. Since then, it has spread to other parts of the world. Nowadays, Zika virus is mainly present in South America and Central America, specifically in Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, Surinam, Panama, Paraguay, Venezuela, and Honduras. There is also a risk of contracting the Zika virus in Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Guyana.
  • Even if the tiger mosquito is present in southern France (in the spring and summer), the rare cases of Zika virus infections discovered in metropolitan France are “imported” cases, that is to say, persons Having contracted the virus during a trip abroad …

Zika virus: symptoms and diagnosis

  • In general, infection with the Zika virus does not cause any symptoms. More rarely, it occurs a few days after the bite of a mosquito by fever, fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting, a rash or conjunctivitis …
  • These symptoms usually go away in two to seven days: even if they can be due to many other minor infections, do not hesitate to consult your doctor, as a precaution, if you are returning from a country at risk. A blood test is sufficient to confirm the presence of the virus. It should ideally be done one month after the infection so that the results are as reliable as possible.
  • There is no curative treatment for this disease but, if necessary, the doctor can set up close pregnancy monitoring (several ultrasounds to control the cranial perimeter, even amniocentesis in some cases).

Zika virus: the risks and the means of protecting it

  • Sometimes the Zika virus infects the fetus during pregnancy: doctors still do not know why this infection is transmitted in some cases and not in others.
  • When the fetus is reached, the main complication detected is microcephaly (cranial perimeter and a brain smaller than normal); There are also other less common complications such as hearing impairment, for example. This microcephaly may be linked to mental retardation, but sometimes it is not.
  • To protect yourself, the easiest way is not to travel to risky countries during your pregnancy or to protect you from mosquitoes by any means if you have to stay there (mosquito nets, repellents, etc.). Finally, avoid having unprotected sex with a man returning from these countries.
  • If you are planning a pregnancy while you are coming from a country at risk, wait a few months until your body is rid of the virus.

If you live in an endemic area, protect yourself against mosquito bites:

  • Avoid going out at the beginning and end of the day (these are the periods when tiger mosquitoes remain more aggressive),
  • Apply repellents,
  • Wear broad clothes that cover your whole body,
  • Use mosquito nets,
  • Remediate your home: remove stagnant water and all areas and conditions that are conducive to the development of mosquitoes (dustbins, shrubs …)