Zika Virus: An Ob-Gyn Answers Our Questions

Zika: There's no avoiding the topic—especially if you're pregnant, or planning to become pregnant. Parents Editor-in-Chief Dana Points sat down with Dr. Siobhan Dolan to talk about the virus.

Zika Virus: An Ob-Gyn Answers Our Questions

This time last year, the vast majority of the United States population had never even heard of the Zika virus. Now, it's a huge concern for every individual considering pregnancy. In the blink of an eye, Zika swept through Brazil and 1.5 million cases later—in this past year—it seems like the microcephaly-causing virus is taking over and hanging out right at the border of our own country.

Zika transmission has not yet been recorded in the United States, but there have been 691 travel-aquired cases of Zika within the country. (And let's not forget about other United States territories, like Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa—over 1300 locally aquired cases of Zika virus have been reported in these locations, too.)

What's truly scary is that half of the pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and that statistic represents a population of women who likely aren't even concerned about Zika. The topic is too real, then, for parents and parents-to-be to not understand it, so Parents Editor-in-Chief Dana Points sat down recently with Dr. Siobhan Dolan, a medical advisor to the March of Dimes and an ob-gyn at Albert Einstein College of Medicine to get the scoop. 

Check out our Facebook Live interview with her above, and reference this list of quick Zika facts every parent should be aware of:

  • The main focus and concern for microcephaly-causing Zika deals with only pregnancy-related exposure and travel-related exposure right now in the United States.
  • The symptoms for Zika virus in children and adults include: Fever, pink eye, joint pain, headaches, and other flu-like symptoms. Not everyone who has Zika virus will show symptoms.
  • Babies are not at risk for developing microcephaly because the Zika virus causes incomplete brain development in utero.  
  • Women in the early stages of pregnancy fall into the highest risk category, in terms of the fetus being infected and having microcephaly.
  • If pregnancy is part of your short-term or long-term plan, it's smart to talk to your doctor about making travel plans.
  • If you have traveled to an area with Zika and you're pregnant, you are qualified for testing even if you're not showing symptoms.
  • The Zika virus can be transmitted sexually. A man who has contracted Zika during time traveling should use a condom with his partner for up to six months following exposure. Women need to use protection up to two months after exposure.
  • Pregnant women are 20 percent more likely to attract mosquitos, so it's crucial to use protection and avoid areas where Zika virus is spreading. Wear repellents, cover your skin, use bed netting, and stay in air-conditioned areas.
  • Check the fine print on bug repellents containing DEET. It's safe for pregnant women to use a bug spray with up to 20 percent DEET.
  • Apply your sunscreen before you apply repellent.
  • Stay in tune to updates and developments as researchers learn more about Zika. There is concern amongst the experts that the southern part of the United States will be infected.  
  • The risk for pregnant women is not worth the vacation. Check in with your airline to see if you qualify for a refund based on your ticket purchase-date and stage in pregnancy.

Want more information? The CDC and the March of Dimes (in Spanish, too!) are resources for updated information about the Zika virus.