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If you are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant, it is important to be aware of the risks associated with the Zika virus.
Zika is a virus spread by a particular type of mosquito (the Aedes species). People who contract Zika often only experience mild flu-like symptoms, such as fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes), and four out of five people with Zika will never exhibit any symptoms.
However, Zika infection during pregnancy has been linked to severe birth defects. If you are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant, it is important to be aware of the risks associated with the virus.
While the symptoms experienced by an expectant mother who contracts Zika may be mild, she can transmit the virus to the baby, which is cause for greater concern.
Recent research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that there is sufficient evidence to conclude that contracting Zika during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects, such as microcephaly and other brain defects, along with eye abnormalities leading to blindness.
Microcephaly is a birth defect that affects the growth of a baby’s skull and causes children born with this defect to have smaller skulls than is typically expected. This is problematic because it indicates that the baby’s brain has not grown as much as it should have. This lack of growth impacts brain development, and babies with microcephaly can have a number of problems, such as seizures, balance and movement problems, hearing loss, and vision problems.
The best way to protect yourself and your baby from Zika virus during pregnancy is to avoid exposure by staying away from areas where Zika transmission has been reported. While the species of mosquito that transmits Zika virus has been found as far north as New England, at present the areas of greatest concern are Central and South America and the Caribbean.
Check the CDC’s Zika Travel Notices to learn more about specific travel warnings and areas to avoid.
If your partner has recently traveled to an area affected by Zika and has been infected, it is a good idea to use condoms for the rest of your pregnancy to ensure that the virus is not passed from your partner to you.
Get more tips from the CDC on how to protect yourself from Zika during pregnancy.
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