Contraception is currently the only prevention tool to fight the effects of Zika
“Never before in history has there been the situation where a bite from a mosquito could result in a devastating malformation,” stated Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last month. Dr. Frieden was referring to the now confirmed link between the Zika virus and microcephaly, a birth defect notarized by small newborn head size. Infants born with Microcephaly also have other complications such as seizures, developmental and intellectual disabilities, problems with movements and balance, feeding problems , hearing loss and vision problems.
The Zika virus is spread by a mosquito to a human and an infected mother can transmit it to her fetus. While the Zika virus can have devastating effects on a fetus, the symptoms are mild in an adult. It has a 3-12 day incubation period which produces mild flu-like symptoms such as a fever skin rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis. Many people won’t even realize they have been exposed to the virus because it causes very mild symptoms according to the Centers for Disease Control. However, if an individual is infected, they can transmit the virus to another person through sexual contact and a mother to her unborn baby. According to the March of Dimes, it is recommended that women up to 8 weeks to conceive after a Zika infection. However, it is believed that the virus lives longer semen. Therefore, men infected with Zika should wait even longer before conception.
With the summer mosquito season quickly approaching, there is reason to be concerned about how to prevent the spread of this virus and curtail the impact it can have on fetal development. At the present time, there is still a lot we do not know about the Zika virus according to Dr. Frieden. However, we do know that there is no vaccine or treatment at the current moment. Prevention is our most important tool. One of these is the diligent use of contraception (birth control) until the threat of the disease passes or both parents are Zika-free.
Other important measures are to practice vigilant vector control such as cleaning up any free-standing water that attracts mosquitos, using EPA recommended bug sprays, wearing long-sleeved clothing and securing screens in your home. For free or low cost contraception coverage, visit www.lebanonfamilyhealth.org