Zika Update – 5 Recommendations for Pregnancy Screening and Safety

Unfortunately, Zika virus is showing no signs of slowing down. According to recent reports, the virus has infected residents in over 50 countries around the world, causing serious birth defects. In late July, officials in Florida confirmed four Zika cases in Miami, Florida, marking the first locally transmitted cases in the continental U.S.

The good news is that the longer the virus is active, the more health officials and physicians can learn about diagnosing and treating the condition. To help you continue protecting your family’s health, consider the following recommendations for travel, screening and safety:

1. Keep following travel restrictions. Pregnant women should not travel to areas with active Zika virus transmission. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s recent travel advisory, you should avoid Wynwood and the surrounding areas in Miami. Pregnant women who must travel to a high-risk area should follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the trip.

2. Continue using barrier method with a high-risk partner. If you are pregnant and have a sex partner who has traveled to or lives in an area with active Zika virus transmission, use condoms or other barrier methods to prevent infection or abstain from sex for the remainder of the pregnancy.

3. Get tested. The CDC advises that all pregnant women in the U.S. should be assessed for possible Zika exposure during every prenatal visit. Your healthcare provider should ask you about recent travel as well as travel by your sexual partner. Testing is recommended for pregnant women based on travel/sex exposure risk and manifested symptoms including fever and rash. In Florida, the Department of Health is now offering free Zika testing for all pregnant women.

4. Follow CDC’s new clinical guidelines for improved diagnoses. When you visit your doctor, make sure he or she is following the latest clinical management recommendations, which include:

  • Extending the rRT-PCR testing window from <1 week to <2 weeks from symptom onset in symptomatic pregnant women.
  • Adding a new recommendation to implement Zika-specific rRT-PCR testing of serum and urine among asymptomatic pregnant women with possible exposure.
  • Adding a new recommendation for immediate rRT-PCR testing after a pregnant woman has a positive or equivocal -Zika IgM antibody test.
  • Updating the guidelines to emphasize testing of infant blood rather than “infant blood or cord blood.”

5. Monitor progress of new clinical trials. The National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda is organizing a clinical trial of a Zika vaccine that will involve at least 80 healthy volunteers at three locations around the U.S. The study will be used to evaluate the vaccine’s safety and gauge its effectiveness in generating an immune-system response in patients. By early 2017, researchers are planning to start a larger-scale trial in countries affected by Zika.

While Zika currently has no cure or effective treatment, scientists and healthcare providers around the globe are working hard to provide up-to-date diagnostic and disease prevention guidelines. If you’re pregnant, take the precautions needed to protect your unborn child from Zika-related birth defects.

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To learn more about Zika and women’s health screenings, call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com.

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