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Dr. B gave us a great overview of the Zika virus a few weeks ago – what it is, where it is, and how it affects pregnancy. As the virus has been studied further, we’d like to keep you in the know with the latest science.

What we know now about Zika…

  • Zika can be sexually transmitted.

  • Pregnant women should take steps to avoid contracting Zika virus through sex. This means abstinence or condoms always with partners that have traveled to an area with Zika virus.

  • For men who have traveled to an area with Zika AND who had clinical symptoms of infection like fever, joint pain, pink eye, or rash, should use condoms or abstain from sex with their pregnant partner for 6 months after travel.  They should also avoid attempts at trying to conceive for 6 months.

  • For men or women who have traveled to an area with Zika but did not have any concern or illness, they should wait 2 months before unprotected sex or trying to conceive.

There is no evidence that Zika can be transmitted through breastfeeding.There have been over 400 cases of Zika infection reported in the United States. Ten of these cases have been in North Carolina; however, NONE of these infections have been caused by mosquito bites. All infections have been due to travel or sex with a person who has traveled to an affected area.

Infection with Zika during pregnancy has been associated with microcephaly (small head circumference and brain), but infection just after birth or in early childhood has not been linked to this problem.

For yourself and your kiddos, please do what you can to avoid bug bites, and know that it is not just mosquitoes that can carry illnesses. Ticks and other bugs can spread disease too. Insect repellent with at least 20% DEET is safe in pregnancy and breastfeeding, as is clothing treated with permethrin. If you use sunscreen and bug spray, apply the sunscreen first and let it dry before applying repellent.

What we still don’t know about Zika…

  • If a pregnant women is exposed to Zika, how likely she is to get infected
  • If a pregnant woman is infected with Zika, how likely she is to pass onto her baby, or how likely her baby is to have birth defects
  • If there are different effects on pregnancy if Zika is contracted by sex or by mosquito
  • If there is a medicine or vaccination to treat Zika

It’s super scary to hear all about birth defects and Zika, and to hear that there is still so much to be learned about this virus. But, please, don’t let Zika keep you from enjoying this beautiful North Carolina summer! We encourage everyone to get outdoors, be active, and enjoy our beaches and mountains.

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