By on February 11, 2016

The Zika virus has been concerning the nation, especially since it poses a high risk to pregnant women. Although everyone should be aware of this virus since it can lead to further health complications, pregnant women should be more cautious. Potential Zika virus symptoms are generally mild, including fever, rash on the hands or face, joint discomfort, arthralgia, and in some cases, an eye infection. These symptoms last anywhere from a few days to a week.

Back in November 2015, Brazil declared a public emergency after discovering a tenfold higher rate of fetal microcephaly occurring in the Zika-affected states. Microcephaly is when the brain of the fetus is much smaller and doesn’t develop appropriately, leading to significant implications to brain development. Fetal microcephaly is only seen in about 1 to 2 per thousand newborns, so it’s generally rare, but it can also be caused by other complications other than the Zika virus, including nutrition or potential infections.

The Zika virus has become a worldwide concern due to numerous people traveling to Central and South America, including Brazil, during their winter vacations. It has been obvious that this virus is spreading. On a positive note, doctors have only confirmed about a dozen cases of infections in the United States, but the infections do not originate from mosquitoes in the U.S.

As for advice, the first thing doctors tell their pregnant patients is to avoid traveling to Central and South America. And if they travel, it is taken into account that they are likely to come back infected. Only about 20 percent of women infected experience symptoms, and 80 percent do not, so symptoms aren’t the only way to detect the Zika virus.

Also, doctors are following the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, so if pregnant women experience Zika virus symptoms, they should get a blood test. If there are no symptoms detected, an obstetrician should monitor the baby’s head size with fetal ultrasounds to detect microcephaly. Other detections from the ultrasound should be monitored are bright white spots indicating infections or calcifications.

Unfortunately, there is not a treatment for this condition yet. So it’s generally better to be safe than sorry. If you’re pregnant and planning a trip to Zika-affected countries, it is probably ideal to cancel the trip now and wait until after the baby is born for a more positive outcome.

Maternal Fetal Medicine blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!