by the MotherToBaby Public Affairs Committee
UPDATED STATEMENT AS OF FEBRUARY 4, 2016
MotherToBaby Experts Offer Evidence-Based Information about Zika Virus during Pregnancy
On February 1, 2016 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared “A Global Public Health Emergency” over the Zika virus, due to its suspected ability to cause microcephaly in unborn babies (1). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “developed interim guidelines for healthcare providers in the United States caring for women during a Zika virus outbreak.” (2) These guidelines include recommendations for pregnant women considering travel to an area with Zika virus transmission and recommendations for disease testing, ultrasound testing, and management of pregnant women returning to the United States after traveling to areas where the virus is being transmitted. Since some infected, pregnant women will not show symptoms, providers may consider additional ultrasound testing. The CDC states that, in addition to the routine ultrasound testing at 18-20 weeks of pregnancy, “additional ultrasounds might provide an opportunity to identify findings consistent with fetal Zika virus infection and offer pregnant women the option of amniocentesis to test for Zika virus RNA.” (3) These CDC guidelines will be updated as more information becomes available.
MotherToBaby, a service of the non-profit Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS), is suggested as a resource by many agencies including the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Office of Women’s Health. MotherToBaby offers evidence-based information about exposures, such as the Zika virus, during pregnancy and breastfeeding through its toll-free phone line (866-626-6847), text message (855-999-3525) and digitally via email and live chat on www.MotherToBaby.org.
We can cover topics such as:
• Mode of transmission
• Regions where it has been identified
• Symptoms of infection
• Effects of the infection and symptoms on the pregnancy
• Effects of treatment of the infection and symptoms on the pregnancy
• Prevention of infection
• Central nervous system (CNS) malformations
• Information on types of testing depending on when the infection occurred
OFFICIAL STATEMENT AS OF JANUARY 13, 2016
Recently, there have been reports of the Zika virus cases and its possible effect on a pregnancy. While information is currently limited, there are some things we know:
Zika virus was first identified in Africa in 1947. In 2013, there were outbreaks in islands in the Pacific, and now outbreaks are being reported in many Central and South American counties. Isolated cases have been also reported in Puerto Rico and Texas in the last few weeks.
Zika virus is spread by mosquito bites. Symptoms of the Zika virus include fever, headache, joint and/or muscle pain, conjunctivitis (“pinkeye”) and sometimes a rash.
There have been reports of microcephaly (small head and brain) in the babies of pregnant women who were infected with the Zika virus during pregnancy. Research is ongoing to determine if Zika virus is the cause of microcephaly in infants whose mothers were infected with the virus during pregnancy and if the stage of pregnancy plays a role.
There is no vaccine or cure for the Zika virus. Symptoms are treated as they arise (such as using acetaminophen to treat fever and/or headaches). Prevention is the best approach. That includes using bug repellent (including formulas that contain DEET- https://mothertobaby.org/fact-sheets/deet-nn-ethyl-m-toluamide-pregnancy/), wearing protective clothing, and removing standing water where mosquitoes live. For more information, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/zika/prevention/index.html.
If you have questions or concerns about the Zika virus, please contact a bilingual (English/Spanish) MotherToBaby expert by calling 1-866-626-6847 or texting questions to 855-999-3525 (standard text messaging rates may apply). You can also chat live or send an email through www.MotherToBaby.org.
MotherToBaby is a suggested resource by many agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Office of Women’s Health. More than 100,000 women and their health care providers seek information about birth defects prevention from MotherToBaby every year.