What you need to know about Zika as summer approaches

Franklyn Christensen, MD, doesn’t like mosquitoes. He really doesn’t like them. Growing up in Puerto Rico, Dr. Christensen had to swat mosquitoes year round.

He also saw the impact of mosquito-borne disease. Dr. Christensen was determined to research and know all about mosquitoes and how they transmit virus and disease to people.

Now a Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist at Carle, Dr. Christensen knows all about the mosquito-transmitted Zika virus, and wants the community to be educated.

“Zika is not fatal for adults, but it can cause severe birth defects. People get Zika when infected mosquitos bite them or through sexual contact with an infected partner. One in five people infected with Zika don’t get sick. For those who do get sick, symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain and pink eye,” Dr. Christensen said.

“Right now, Zika is being transmitted in Latin America and not the United States,” he added.

That’s the good news.

Unfortunately, Zika is dangerous for women who are pregnant or want to become pregnant. Mothers can pass the virus on to their baby during pregnancy. Zika can cause microcephaly – a birth defect where the baby’s head is small because the brain hasn’t developed properly.

“If women who are pregnant or may become pregnant plan on travelling to Latin America, they must be very careful,” Dr. Christensen said. “I would recommend they put getting pregnant on hold while travelling and use protection.”

When it is safe to start trying to have a baby after travel to Latin America?

“Currently the CDC says if someone hasn’t gotten sick 12 days after returning, it is safe to try and get pregnant. But, the Zika virus can stay in the body, even if people don’t get sick. If the couple wants to play it extra safe, they might want to consider waiting two to six months before trying for a baby,” Dr. Christensen advised.
“Women should discuss Zika and pregnancy with their physician.”