An OB/GYN’s Advice About Zika - Ascension Wisconsin

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Published on February 15, 2016

An OB/GYN’s Advice About Zika

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the Zika virus a "public health emergency of international concern." The vast majority of people have nothing to worry about - at worst getting a rash and flu-like symptoms. But Zika does pose a unique threat to pregnant women.

“With the Zika virus timing is everything,” says Michael Gilman, DO, FACOG, OB/GYN with Wheaton Franciscan Medical Group.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the Zika virus has an incubation period of roughly 12 days. That means it may take 12 days to develop symptoms. You may have no symptoms at all, but still carry the virus in your bloodstream, where it can stay active for another week – a total of 3 weeks.

The virus does not appear to linger in the body, and people who recover from the infection are immune, with no risk to future pregnancies.

The Link Between Zika Virus & Birth Defects

“If you are in the very early stages of pregnancy, the timing of contracting the virus and passing it on to the fetus seems to point to the first trimester, perhaps early into the second,” explains Dr. Gilman. “This is when the virus attacks development of the fetus.”

Health experts believe a Zika infection during early pregnancy may lead to a rare birth defect called microcephaly, a neurological condition that causes babies to be born with small heads and severe developmental issues.

WHO is advising pregnant women in any trimester or women hoping to become pregnant to avoid traveling to areas where Zika has been confirmed. If you have been to, or must travel to, one of these areas, be sure to talk with your prenatal physician.

The Center for Disease Control & Prevention, in consultation with the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, is establishing guidelines for screening tests for the virus.

“Right now there are still many unanswered questions about the Zika virus,” says Dr. Gilman. “Women in child-bearing age should remain educated and diligent regarding any pregnancy or conception. When in doubt, check in with your doctor.”

For the latest news and information about the Zika virus, including recommended travel bans for pregnant women, visit the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention website.

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An OB/GYN’s Advice About Zika