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The fast-moving Zika virus epidemic has crossed from Latin America into Texas, prompting the CDC to develop interim guidelines and recommendations for health care providers in the United States caring for pregnant women during this outbreak. Health care professionals should:

  • Educate all pregnant women considering travel to an area with Zika virus transmission about the risks of infection
  • Ask about recent travel
  • Provide screening, testing, and management of pregnant travelers returning from areas with ongoing virus transmission

The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne infection that produces mild symptoms in adults, but has a devastating effect on the unborn child. Pregnant women exposed to this virus have a higher risk of miscarriage and babies born with microcephaly (small head). In Brazil, cases of microcephaly, in which the brain does not develop fully before birth, increased from an average 150 per year to almost 4000 cases in 2015. Finally, a link between Zika and microcephaly was established when Zika was found in the amniotic fluid of two women and in the brain and heart of an affected infant (Kelly, 2016). This public health issue has led Brazilian health authorities and other high risk countries, to advise women to delay conception to reduce the risk of bearing children with devastating birth defects.

The full spectrum of outcomes that may be associated with Zika virus infections during pregnancy is unknown at this time and requires further investigation. Prevention is the key. Advice for travelers is to Prevent and Present: Prevent being bitten by mosquitoes, and if you develop symptoms don’t ignore them, present yourself immediately for medical care (Shah, 2016).

Sources:

CDC guidelines and recommendations for pregnant women: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6502e1er.htm

Signs and symptoms of Zika virus: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/symptoms/index.html

Updates on areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/

Medscape Medical News: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/857072?nlid=96603_3901&src=wnl_newsalrt_160112_MSCPEDIT&uac=49485SX&impID=953397&faf=1