According to a recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the CDC is recommending Zika virus testing for potentially exposed persons with signs or symptoms consistent with Zika virus disease, and recommends that health care providers offer testing to asymptomatic pregnant women within 12 weeks of exposure.
The recommendation comes after the CDC conducted a study of testing individuals from the United States and the District of Columbia over a two-month period, in which nearly 75% of those tested were pregnant women. Among all individuals exhibiting symptoms of Zika virus, fewer than 12% had confirmed infection. Only 0.3% (seven individuals) of asymptomatic pregnant women who were tested had confirmed infection.
Zika virus is a flavivirus primarily transmitted by Aedes species mosquitoes that has recently spread in the Region of the Americas. According to the CDC, from January 1, 2015 to April 13, 2016, a total of 358 travel-associated cases of Zika virus disease were reported from U.S. states, 351 of which were in persons who traveled to or moved from areas with active Zika virus transmission.
Most Zika virus infections are asymptomatic or cause mild clinical disease. Among persons with clinical illness, signs and symptoms commonly include one or more of the following: fever, rash, arthralgia, and conjunctivitis. Zika virus infection during pregnancy has been causally linked to congenital microcephaly and has been associated with other adverse pregnancy outcomes, including pregnancy loss.
Modes of transmission of the Zika virus include:
- Mosquito Bite
- Blood transfusion
- Organ or tissue transplantation
- Sexual Transmission
- Breast milk
- From infected to uninfected humans and primates by bite of a mosquito
Pregnancy and women considering travel
- Pregnant women in any trimester should consider postponing travel to areas where Zika virus is spreading.
- Pregnant women who do travel to one of these areas should talk to their healthcare provider and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip.
- Women trying to get pregnant should discuss with their provider.
Steps to prevent mosquito bites
When in areas with Zika and other diseases spread by mosquitoes, take the following steps:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Stay in places with air conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
- Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
- Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol. Choosing an EPA-registered repellent ensures the EPA has evaluated the product for effectiveness. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breast-feeding women.
- To protect your child from mosquito bites:
- Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old.
- Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children younger than 3 years old.
- Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs.
- Cover crib, stroller, and baby carrier with mosquito netting.
- Do not apply insect repellent onto a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, and cut or irritated skin.
- Adults: Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.
- Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated items.
- Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings. See product information to learn how long the protection will last.
- If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions carefully.
- Do NOT use permethrin products directly on skin. They are intended to treat clothing.
Even if they do not feel sick, travelers returning to the United States from an area with Zika should take steps to prevent mosquito bites for 3 weeks so they do not spread Zika to mosquitoes that could spread the virus to other people.
For more information, please speak with your physician, or you can call your AgeWell New York Care Manager or Navigator at 866-586-8044.
You can also visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.