With warmer months coming, the threat of Zika virus has started again. In 2016, the CDC reported that one in every ten pregnant women would have the Zika virus. This year, the threat of the Zika virus is higher with 15 percent more mothers being infected during the course of their first trimester. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cautioned pregnant women to protect their health and the health of their babies.
The Zika virus is spread by a species of mosquitoes that are active during the day. The virus is related to dengue, Japanese encephalitis, and the West Nile virus. Zika spread from the equator from Africa to Asia, and in 2007, it began to spread across the Pacific Ocean to North and South America. The Zika virus does not cause symptoms, and with no medications or vaccines, the virus can spread from a pregnant woman to her baby. In unborn children, the Zika virus can cause microcephaly, severe brain malfunctions, eye disorders, central nervous system dysfunction, and other birth defects. In adults, the Zika virus can cause Guillain–Barré syndrome.
The Miami Herald reported that in 2016, there were 51 “Zika-related birth defects.” But the Zika virus testing is complex and timely with a narrow time frame, which amounts to about two weeks after symptoms begin, to get a positive result at the lab. For those who do test positive for the virus, there are still those who do not have symptoms. The CDC decided to monitor any pregnant woman who had any evidence of recent Zika infection. More than 1,600 cases of Zika in all fifty states and Washington, DC, it is a crucial time.
The CDC Zika Response Team’s Pregnancy and Birth Defects Task Force co-leader, Peggy Honein, said there is an even greater “need for better monitoring of babies born to mothers who had Zika during pregnancy,” The Miami Herald reported. Children with Zika-related birth defects might be “higher than reported” because mothers with the Zika virus while pregnant do not get follow-up care. Caring for a baby with Zika related birth defects can cost nearly $4 million, while those few who survive to adulthood, the cost of care can be upwards of $10 million.
Honein went on to say that “prevention is key,” The Miami Herald reported. She went on to add that with necessary steps, people can “protect themselves from Zika.” More funding is required to continue the fight against the Zika virus. CNN reported that in the U.S., there is the US Zika Pregnancy Registry that helps to keep track of “Zika among pregnant women.” The CDC’s report was published in Vital Signs.
By Cheryl Werber
Photo Courtesy Pan American Health Organization