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What people, especially pregnant women, need to know about the Zika virus

April 06, 2016

Leitchfield, KY – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued warnings regarding a virus that is spreading through mosquito bites, and now the World Health Organization (WHO) is declaring it an international health emergency. 

Known as Zika, this virus has been reported primarily in Central and South America, as well as parts of the Caribbean. Because many of these locations are popular vacation destinations, there’s concern for travelers bringing the virus back to the United States.

“The important thing to note is that at this time this is an evolving situation with Zika,” said Paul Schulz, M.D., system epidemiologist for Norton Healthcare. “The CDC and health officials around the world are working together to keep everyone informed as well as take precautions when it comes to the Zika virus.”

Currently the most serious health concern regarding the Zika virus is that infection in pregnant women causes birth defects, specifically microcephaly. With that in mind, the CDC is recommending pregnant women postpone travel to any area reporting an outbreak. If travel is essential to these areas, then pregnant women should take precautions not to be bitten, including the use of EPA-registered insect repellant, an opinion shared by a local healthcare professional.

“The Zika virus can impact pregnancy during any trimester, so precautions are recommended,” said Dr. Wendy Lee, OB/GYN at Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center in Leitchfield. “I tell my patients to avoid all unnecessary travel if possible. If pregnant women do travel they can and should use an insect repellent that is EPA-registered and use it according to product guidelines on the label. They should also plan to wear clothing that covers exposed skin, such as long sleeves and pants.”

The Zika virus also can be transmitted sexually from men to women, even when the man does not have symptoms. The CDC is recommending that male sex partners of pregnant women abstain from sexual intercourse or use condoms for the remainder of the pregnancy if they have traveled to an endemic area of the world. The CDC offers additional recommendations and information for pregnant women on its website. 

It appears that only one in five infected individuals will develop symptoms, and most will be mild. The main symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Rash characterized by a flat, red area of skin that is covered with small confluent bumps
  • Joint pain 
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)

“These symptoms will appear within three to 12 days from the time of infection,” Dr. Schulz said.

For more information about the Zika virus from the CDC go to www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/zika

Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center is an equal opportunity provider and employer. For more information on Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center, go to www.tlrmc.com or call (270) 259-9588.