Guidelines for the Zika virus in pregnant women

According to the CDC, the Zika virus is transmitted through a certain type of mosquito that also transmits other viruses that have been found in the United States. Although the Zika virus has not yet been identified in the United States, there have been infections reported throughout the world in people returning from travel to an area that has seen this virus, which could result in disease transfer from human to human rather than from mosquito and human. This increases the risk of the virus entering the United States.

Pregnant women are not thought to be more at risk for this disease or to have more serious symptoms. However, there is currently an outbreak of this virus in Brazil, and there has been an increase in infants born with microcephaly, which is a disease characterized by abnormal brain growth and an underdeveloped head size. Because of this, there are studies underway to see if the Zika virus is the cause, but until then, the CDC is recommending that all pregnant women hold off on traveling to areas that have a Zika virus outbreak, and if they do travel to this area, to wear long sleeved shirts and use insect repellants. There is no vaccine to prevent this infection and there is currently no cure, just the recommendation of rest, fluids and acetaminophen for fever and pain. In addition, if a woman has been tested positive for this virus, she should receive regular ultrasounds to monitor the growth of her baby and talk with a fetal medicine specialist.

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016;65(Early Release):1-4.

I thought this article was very interesting because it was proactive, discussing emerging health risks in other areas of the world before they hit the United States. I believe looking at health information from other areas of the world, especially those neighboring the U.S., and initiating studies based on that information should be done more often to help prevent large outbreaks that can turn into epidemics, which were seen with Ebola and the West Nile Virus. In addition, working on preventative measures, such as vaccines, as early as possible is one step that can be made to help prepare for potential disease outbreaks, because it is better to be over prepared than to be working against an epidemic.