Any couple considering planning for a family has heard the warnings by now about Zika, and they may have significantly impacted travel plans for honeymoons, destination weddings, and bachelorettes. With the headlines not so prominent anymore, is Zika still as much of a concern? We did a bit of digging to get to the bottom of it, including the latest warnings and advisories.
What is Zika?
Whether you’ve seen the pictures of its effects on newborns or have heard the headlines of the mosquito-spread disease, one thing is for sure: it’s frightening. But what is it, exactly?
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Zika virus is a mosquito-transferred infection that can be confirmed with a blood or urine test. At this time, there is no specific treatment or medication for someone inflicted with the virus, and many people might present with no symptoms at all, while others may develop a fever, rash, headache, joint pain, muscle pain or red eyes. Anyone with these symptoms and/or who has visited an inflicted area should promptly seek medical attention.
Effects on Pregnancy
One of the more devastating effects of the Zika virus is its ability to transfer to a fetus, which can cause microcephaly and other severe birth defects of the brain. While it primarily spreads through mosquitoes, it can also be transmitted through unprotected intercourse.
If you’re thinking of starting a family, there are considerations to make regarding Zika exposures. The CDC recommends that if only a male partner had traveled to an area with risk of Zika, that a couple should refrain from conception for at least six months after returning, even without symptoms. If only the female partner, at least two months upon returning even without symptoms, and if both partners have traveled to an area with risk of Zika, they should refrain for six months.
Prevention during possible exposure is also key, as all individual should take steps to prevent mosquito bites and be aware of possible symptoms.
Within the United States, there have been local transmissions of Zika via mosquitoes in Brownsville, Texas and Miami-Dade County, FL resulting in yellow level guidances from the CDC.
A comprehensive list of countries worldwide that have risks can be found here.
World Health Organization
The World Health Organization issued its last Zika Situation Report in March of 2017, which classifies countries and territories based on their risks and reports of transmission, and states, “Overall, the global risk assessment has not changed. ZIKV continues to spread geographically to areas where competent vectors are present. Although a decline in cases of Zika virus infection has been reported in some countries, or in some parts of countries, vigilance needs to remain high.”
On a positive note, the report did feature a key update that said there had been no countries, territories or subnational areas who have reported vector-borne Zika infections for the first time since February 1st, 2017.
If you know that starting a family is in the immediate future and will be at least six months down the line, then you can absolutely use your own discretion while planning your travels. If you’re uncertain, it might be best to play it safe and stick to unaffected areas for the time being. As always, it’s incredibly important to speak with your doctors and healthcare providers for their expert insight, and to keep checking travel advisories via the CDC to stay informed.