Mosquito biting someone

Zika Virus Update

With the warm weather approaching, there are many things to look forward to this upcoming season. Between BBQs, swimming, and walks around the neighborhood, there are plenty of fun outdoor activities for pregnant women to partake in! But with the warmer weather, comes threats like mosquito bites and the Zika virus.

What is the Zika Virus Disease?

As you may know, the Zika virus is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito and common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. The virus can also spread through sexual intercourse. It is very rare that people die from the Zika virus, but there is no vaccine for it. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a public health emergency of international concern because the virus has drastically spread throughout certain countries, especially in Latin America. There has also been an increase in cases in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been over 600 cases of the Zika virus in the United States.

Zika Virus in Pregnant Women

While most people who get the Zika virus usually do not get sick enough to be hospitalized, it’s still important for women who are pregnant, or trying, and their partners to take precautionary measures against the virus. If a woman contracts the Zika virus, it can cause microcephaly, which is a birth defect where a baby’s brain has not developed properly, making the baby’s head much smaller than expected. The Zika virus can also lead to other severe fetal brain defects. The CDC reports that there has been evidence of 195 pregnant women in the United States having laboratory evidence of possible infection.

Prevention of the Zika Virus

Protecting against mosquito bites requires multiple strategies, especially when you are outdoors. This includes wearing long-sleeved pants and shirts, sleeping under a mosquito bed net and using insect repellent. But not all repellents are created equal.

The best repellents are those with 20 percent picaridin, which is a synthetic compound made to resemble a chemical in the black pepper plant, and those with 15 to 30 percent deet, which helps “blind” an insect’s senses to bite or feed. Both of these ingredients are safe for pregnant women, as long as they are used properly.

Using a natural mosquito repellent, which contains ingredients such as citronella, clove, lemongrass, or rosemary oils may seem like a good idea, but test results show that some of these natural repellents do not protect against Aedes mosquitoes (the kind that can spread Zika). These natural products are not registered by the Environmental Protection Agency, who is responsible for regulating skin-applied repellents and evaluating them for effectiveness and safety.  Wristband repellents, while advertised as being safer, have also been rated as poor performers. To find the best product for you, use Consumer Reports’ recommended insect repellent list.

The Best Way to Use Mosquito Repellent

While it’s important you always follow the product label instructions, here are a few tips on how to properly use insect repellent.

  • Apply Repellents to Exposed Skin and Clothing.

Never put repellents on skin underneath your clothing, and avoid using repellents on cuts, wounds, and irritated skin and after recently shaving. Also, don’t go too heavy on the repellent, as heavy doses do not work better or longer.

  • Don’t Forget Your Face

When applying repellent on your face, it’s important to not spray directly, as it can irritate your eyes and mouth. Instead, spray first on your hands and then rub it on your face and sparingly around your ears.

  • Don’t Let Young Children Apply Themselves

To ensure your children are fully protected, it’s important to spray repellent on your hands, and then rub it in on your child. However, make sure you limit the amount on their hands, because children often put their hands in their eyes and mouth.

  • Wash Treated Skin and Clothing

When you get back indoors, it’s important to wash skin with soap and water, and clothing in a separate wash to remove the repellent. Avoid using the repellent around food, and make sure you wash your hands immediately after applying and before eating or drinking.

At NYU Langone Reproductive Specialists of New York, we have been following the Zika virus closely, and we strive to help women everyday, that are looking to become pregnant, take the necessary precautions to keep them and their unborn baby safe. Request an appointment to meet with one of our fertility specialists and embark on a healthy journey to become a mother today!

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