Zika causes microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects
As of May 12, 279 pregnant women in the U.S. have Zika virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The total number includes 157 expecting moms in the states and another 122 in U.S. territories.
Stories on the Zika virus have become more prevalent as Brazil deals with a massive outbreak and an increased number of babies born with microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects. Microcephaly is a condition where the baby’s head is much smaller than it should be because the child’s brain hasn’t fully developed during pregnancy or after birth. The disease can also cause eye defects, hearing loss, and impaired growth in babies.
Of the 279 pregnant U.S. women with Zika, it is unknown how many babies will suffer from brain defects, Dr. Margaret Honein explained to CNN. She’s the chief of the CDC’s birth defects branch. Zika is spread through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. Pregnant women can also contract Zika sexually from a male partner who’s traveled to one of the areas in the world known for having the infected mosquitos. So far, there hasn’t been a reported case of someone getting Zika from a mosquito bite in the U.S. Instead, people have obtained it when traveling to an infected country or sexually.
People rarely die from Zika, and its symptoms – fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes – are so mild that people rarely go to a hospital or clinic. This makes tracking the number of individuals with it difficult. It’s also important to remember that scientists don’t know everything about Zika and its effects. What we do know are a few ways to avoid getting it. First and foremost, hold off on traveling to places in the middle of a Zika crisis, which include South America and Africa.
The CDC has a ton of useful information on Zika that you can read here. Below are some of their recommendations.
When in areas with Zika take the following steps:
- 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.
- Always follow the product label instructions and reapply as directed.
- Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.
- If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.
- 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.
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.
- Adults should spray insect repellent onto their hands and then apply to a child’s face.
We know hearing about Zika cases in the U.S. is terrifying, but being informed and safe is our best bet.