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Pregnant? Watch out for Zika
The Zika virus may not be getting as much buzz in the news as it used to, but it's still around. That means it still poses a risk to women who are pregnant or wanting to become so. Until scientists develop a Zika vaccine (they're working on it!), prevention is largely up to you. But just what should you do to stay safe?
We'll get to that part. But first, it may help to learn what Zika is and why it could put you at risk.
Zika is typically a mild viral infection—most who get it don't even get sick
But here's what's dangerous about getting Zika when you're pregnant: You could pass it to your baby. In babies, Zika can cause microcephaly, a potentially severe birth defect. In this condition, a baby's head is unusually small because the brain is underdeveloped.
Zika infections have also been linked to other pregnancy problems, such as miscarriage and stillbirth.
How it goes viral: Mosquitoes and sex
The main way Zika spreads is through the bite of infected mosquitoes. Not all mosquitoes carry Zika, but those that do tend to bite during the daytime (though they bite at night too).
But mosquitoes aren't the only vector. While it's less common, you can also get Zika through unprotected sex with a man or woman who has Zika.
How to steer clear of Zika
Currently, rates of Zika are low in the continental U.S. But this doesn't mean Zika isn't a potential threat, especially if you or your partner travel. Here are some precautions you should take while pregnant.
Don't travel to areas where Zika is a risk. Visiting a country or U.S. territory where Zika is active puts you in the path of Zika-carrying mosquitoes. So, where is Zika currently a risk? Check out this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for up-to-date info.
If you absolutely must travel to a Zika-prone area—or if you live in an area where there's even a low Zika risk, talk to your healthcare provider about ways to avoid infection.
Avoid mosquito bites. Here are some tips:
- Keep mosquitoes out. If you have an air-conditioning unit, use it to cool off. If you must open windows and doors, close the screens first.
- Use a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellent. Make sure it contains one of these safe ingredients: DEET; picaridin; IR3535; oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol; or 2-undecanone. Follow the product label directions carefully.
- Wear pants and long-sleeved shirts when you're outdoors.
Be safe about sex. If your partner has recently traveled to a Zika-prone area or you live in an area where Zika is a risk, practice safe sex (or don't have sex until after your baby is born). Remember: Safe sex means using a condom—from start to finish—during any type of sex.
More pregnancy news
Are you and your partner planning to sneak in one last trip before baby arrives? Check out these tips before you start packing.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; March of Dimes