Family Health

OB/GYN Shares What You Should Know About Zika Virus Going Into 2017

Dec 6 • 2016

Earlier this year, Zika virus was one of the biggest health stories in the world. Although news coverage has slowed, we urge you to be aware of what symptoms to look out for and ways to reduce your risk. Dr. Laura Bishop, OB/GYN at Baptist, has shared her insights on this dangerous virus.

How Has Zika Virus Changed?

Although the symptoms and side effects of Zika virus are still the same, one of the biggest changes noted over the last several months is how long men can be infectious after having the disease. “There is evidence of a man in France who had Zika virus present in his semen over 60 days from his infection,” said Dr. Bishop. “Initially, we didn’t think it could be carried or spread for that long.”

What Symptoms Do People Experience?

Many people mistake Zika virus for the flu because they share many common symptoms, including aches, fever, rash and conjunctivitis. But not everyone experiences symptoms. “The scary thing about the virus is that 4 out of 5 people have no symptoms, but in the case of females, they can still have been infected and have a child with birth defects from the virus,” said Dr. Bishop. “The most concerning side effect afterwards is severe brain birth defects in the baby if the mother is exposed during her pregnancy.”

How Can People Prevent Zika?

The only place that Zika is present in the United States is Miami, so one of the best ways to reduce your risk is to avoid traveling to places where Zika mosquitos are pregnant. [In addition to Miami], this includes the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. “If you are traveling to these areas, then protection against mosquitos is important – wearing bug spray and clothes that cover your arms and legs,” she said. “If travel is planned, the CDC website keeps up-to-date information on areas of active Zika mosquitos.”

The main concern for pregnant women is the severe birth defects that Zika virus causes. If you are a woman planning on pregnancy and traveling, wait until you’ve been back in the United States for six months before attempting to become pregnant. For men, do not have intercourse for six months and, if traveling while your female partner is pregnant, refrain from unprotected intercourse for the duration of the pregnancy.

Dr. Bishop reiterated the importance of being proactive if you are pregnant. “The most important thing is if a pregnant woman may have been exposed, she needs to notify her OB/GYN right away.”