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Zika: What a New Mother Needs to Know

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that is transmitted during the daytime hours by female Aedes mosquitoes, such as A. aegypti and A. albopictus. The virus was originally isolated in the Zika Forest of Uganda in 1947. The Zika virus is related to other mosquito-borne viruses such as chikungunya, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, West Nile and yellow fever.

How Long Does Infection Last?

The virus last about a week in the blood stream and symptoms can last a few days to about a week. Most adults and children infected with Zika have no symptoms or have mild symptoms such as fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise, and headache. However, because most people who become infected with Zika may never realize they have the virus. It is important if you are pregnant or have a sexual partner who may become pregnant, that you protect yourself from infection.

Is Zika only spread by mosquitos? Can my baby get it from my breastmilk?

No, Zika can be spread by sexual transmission between partners and by a pregnant mother to her unborn baby. The Zika virus has been isolated in the breastmilk of two women but currently there are no documented cases world wide of Zika transmission through breastmilk. Also none of the infants who contracted the virus postnatally through mosquitos have reported any neurological health problems at this time

WHO recommendations

Infants born to mothers with suspected, probable or confirmed Zika virus infection, or who reside in or have travelled to areas of ongoing Zika virus transmission, should be fed according to normal infant feeding guidelines. They should start breastfeeding within one hour of birth, be exclusively breastfed for six months and have timely introduction of adequate, safe and properly fed complementary foods, while continuing breastfeeding up to two years of age or beyond.

Why is it important for pregnant women to protect themselves from the Zika Virus?

Zika causes profound birth defects such as microcephaly, a condition in which the skull that holds the baby’s brain is very small resulting in a underdeveloped, stunted brain. This is a lifelong condition that cannot be corrected. Children who have microcephaly suffer from:


•Developmental delay, such as problems with speech or other developmental milestones (like sitting, standing, and walking)

•Intellectual disability (decreased ability to learn and function in daily life)

•Problems with movement and balance

•Feeding problems, such as difficulty swallowing

•Hearing loss

•Vision problems

What parts of the US have Zika?

Currently only Miami, Florida has 29 reported cases of locally acquired Zika. The rest of the US has travel acquired Zika spread throughout the country. However, our territories especially Puerto Rico has been really hard hit with 8,746 cases of locally acquired alone. If you travel to Mexico, South America, the US territories or other tropical destinations, check on the CDC website for current guidelines to protect yourself from the virus.

US infections (August 24, 2016 (5 am EST) ~ CDC 2016

US states: Locally acquired, 29; travel-associated, 2,487

US territories: Locally acquired, 8,968; travel-associated, 43

To learn more about the Zika Virus and how to protect yourself, please check the CDC’s website and the World Health Organization (WHO).

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