Zika virus: What parents should know

With news and concern about the Zika virus growing, a CHOC Children’s infectious disease specialist explains what parents and mothers-to-be need to know about the virus.

Zika virus is a mosquito-transmitted disease that can cause rash and fever in adults and children, but seldom prompts hospitalization, says Dr. Antonio Arrieta, president of CHOC’s medical staff.

However, babies born to women who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant may be at risk for developing microcephaly, a condition marked by an unusually small head at birth, often reflecting limited brain development, he says.

Zika originated decades ago in Uganda, but has spread through Southeast Asia, the Pacific lslands and the Americas – including Brazil, where physicians in recent months noticed a substantial uptick in the number of babies born with microcephaly, Dr. Arrieta says.

To that end, the Centers for Disease Control has cautioned pregnant women or women trying to become pregnant about traveling to several countries, including Cape Verde, Mexico and Samoa, as well as places in the Caribbean, Central America and South America. See the CDC’s website for the most recent travel information.

The CDC advises pregnant women who have traveled to these locations and experienced fever, rash, joint pain or red eyes during or recently after their trip to consult their doctor.

Further, routine imaging will alert pregnant women who have traveled to affected countries if their baby is at risk for microcephaly, Dr. Arrieta says.

The virus is transmitted by a specific species of mosquito, Aedes spp, which is found in some areas of the United States. The best way to protect against bites is to wear insect repellent, particularly during spring and summer, Dr. Arrieta says.

He cautions that pregnant women should first consult with their obstetrician regarding safety of different insect repellent formulations.

More information about the Zika virus – including travel alerts – is available on the CDC’s website.

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