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Zika Virus and Pregnancy
Adapted from Zika Virus by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Zika /ˈziːkə, ˈzɪkə/ virus is spread to people through mosquito bites. About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus become ill. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) for Zika virus disease is not known, but is likely to be a few days to a week.
The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for about a week and in the semen of infected men, for at least two weeks.
Zika virus can be spread from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby. There have been reports of a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly in babies of mothers who had Zika virus while pregnant. Pregnant women in any trimester should consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus is spreading.
Countries in the Americas with Active Zika
U.S. Virgin Is.
Zika Virus in the United States
Question and Answers: Zika virus infection and pregnancy
Is there a vaccine or medicine for Zika?
No. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
How can people protect themselves against Zika?
The best way to prevent Zika is to prevent mosquito bites:
Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
Eliminate mosquito breeding sites, like containers with standing water.
Should women trying to get pregnant travel to places with Zika outbreaks?
Until more is known, CDC recommends that women trying to get pregnant and their male partners talk to their healthcare provider before traveling to areas with Zika. Because sexual transmission is possible, both men and women should strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the trip.
Can mothers pass Zika on to their babies during pregnancy?
Zika virus can be passed from a mother to her baby during pregnancy.
What should a pregnant woman do if she has previously traveled to a place with a Zika outbreak?
CDC recommends that all pregnant women who have traveled to an area with Zika talk to their doctors. It is especially important that pregnant women see a doctor if they develop a fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes during their trip or within 2 weeks after traveling to a country where Zika has been reported.
What should a pregnant woman do if she gets sick during or after travel to a place with a Zika outbreak?
Pregnant women who are worried that they have contracted Zika should talk to their healthcare provider about their recent travel. CDC provides guidance to help doctors decide what tests are needed for pregnant women who may have been exposed to Zika and what tests are needed for unborn babies.
Does Zika in pregnant women cause birth defects?
CDC, and other agencies, have been investigating the possible association between Zika virus infection and microcephaly (a birth defect in which the size of a baby’s head is smaller than expected for age).
Babies with microcephaly can have a range of other problems, depending on how severe their microcephaly is. Microcephaly has been linked with the following problems:
Developmental delay, such as problems with speech or other developmental milestones (like sitting, standing, and walking)
Intellectual disability (decreased ability to learn and function in daily life)
Problems with movement and balance
Feeding problems, such as difficulty swallowing
During pregnancy, microcephaly can sometimes be diagnosed by an ultrasound (which creates pictures of the body). To see microcephaly during pregnancy, the ultrasound test should be done late in the 2nd trimester or early in the third trimester.
Microcephaly is a lifelong condition. There is no known cure or standard treatment for microcephaly.
Can a previous Zika infection cause a woman who later gets pregnant to have a baby with microcephaly?
Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that Zika virus infection poses a risk of birth defects for future pregnancies. Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for about a week. The virus will not cause birth defects in a baby that is conceived after the virus is cleared from the blood.
Is it safe to get pregnant after traveling to a place with a Zika outbreak?
Zika virus usually remains in the blood for about a week. Zika virus has been found in semen for approximately to two weeks. There is no evidence that the virus will cause birth defects in a baby that is conceived after the virus is cleared from the semen of the father and from the blood of the mother.
Can pregnant and breastfeeding women use insect repellent?
Yes. Use EPA-registered insect repellents. When used as directed, these insect repellents are proven safe and effective even for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Some natural products are EPA-registered. An example of a natural product with an EPA registration is oil of lemon eucalyptus.
If a man traveled to an area with Zika, is it safe for him to have sex with his pregnant partner?
Men who have traveled to an area of active Zika virus transmission who have a pregnant partner should abstain from sexual activity or consistently and correctly use condoms during sex for the duration of the pregnancy.
A sexually active man has traveled to an area with Zika virus. How can he prevent spreading the Zika virus to his sex partner?
Men who have traveled to an area of active Zika virus transmission who are concerned about sexual transmission of Zika virus might consider abstaining from sexual activity or using condoms consistently and correctly during sex. After infection, Zika virus might persist in semen when it is no longer detectable in blood.
Can a female sex partner transmit the Zika virus to her sex partners?
At this time, there is no evidence that women can transmit Zika virus to their sex partners.
A male traveled to an area with Zika virus. His female sex partner is trying to get pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant. How long do they need to wait before trying to get pregnant?
We do not know for sure how long the Zika virus is present in semen for men who have been infected with Zika virus. One report found the virus in semen at least two weeks after illness. No follow up testing was done to determine when the man no longer had Zika virus in his semen.
At this time, we do not know how long the Zika virus can be sexually transmitted from a male partner. If someone is concerned they should talk to their healthcare provider about their male sex partner’s travel history, including how long he stayed, and whether or not he took steps to prevent getting mosquito bites.
Can a man have his semen tested for Zika virus?
There are tests to detect Zika virus in semen but they are not widely available. Further, we have a limited understanding of how to interpret the results of such tests, so testing of semen is not recommended. As we learn more, these tests may become more helpful to determine the risk of sexual transmission of Zika.
Are there tests available to determine the risk of sexual transmission of Zika?
No. Zika virus testing has been recommended to establish a diagnosis of infection. Testing blood or semen is not recommended to determine the risk of sexual transmission of Zika virus.
Since Zika virus can remain in semen longer than blood, someone might have a negative blood test but a positive semen test. We have a limited understanding of how to interpret the results of tests on semen or the frequency of testing needed. Studies are underway to better understand the performance of these tests and how best to interpret the results.