Zika in America: How can pregnant women protect themselves?

With news of the first cases of mosquito-transmitted Zika virus in the continental U.S., many pregnant women are wondering how they can protect themselves.

We recently received this question from a concerned viewer:

Dear Dr. Manny,
I'm 13 weeks pregnant. Now that Zika is here in America, what should I do to reduce my risk of getting it?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests avoiding travel to affected areas like Florida. Infected mosquitoes spread the Zika virus, but it can also be transmitted through sex, so your partner should take certain precautions as well.

Symptoms of the virus last for several days and may include:

  • Rash
  • Fever
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Red eyes
  • Headache

Only one in five people will actually have these symptoms, so the CDC is advising doctors to assess their pregnant patients’ exposure risk at each prenatal visit.

Remember, mosquitoes that spread Zika bite mostly during the day time, but they can be around at night, too.

Even if you live in an affected area, there are things you can do to protect yourself and your baby, like wearing long sleeved shirts and pants. Try to stay in air conditioned places with window screens and avoid or remove any standing water around your home. Use bug repellent that is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). If you suspect your partner may have been exposed to the virus, be sure to use condoms or abstain from sex altogether.

Always check in with your doctor if you think you may have been exposed to the Zika virus.

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