Pregnant women should reconsider travel to areas with Zika virus
March 20, 2016
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs residents booking tickets for a tropical spring break vacation may want to carefully consider their destination, particularly if they are pregnant or are the significant other of a pregnant woman.
Spread of the Zika virus in recent months has become a public health emergency, according to the World Health Organization.
Primarily spread through mosquito bites in warm, tropical areas, symptoms of the virus include red eyes, joint pain, rash and fever, and the illness may lead to the birth injury microcephaly for pregnant women who contract the virus.
Babies with microphaly have a smaller head, which is normally associated with slower brain development.
When discussing Zika with pregnant women locally, Dr. Diane E. B. Petersen said she is advising the women not to travel to areas where Zika is active.
"Don't go," said Petersen, an OB/GYN at Yampa Care for Women at Yampa Valley Medical Center.
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Petersen said that, if the significant other of a pregnant women is traveling to an area with Zika, he should try to avoid mosquito bites, be tested for the virus' antibody if he begins to show symptoms and avoid intimacy or use condoms with his pregnant partner.
Although Zika has been around since the 1940s, until recently, outbreaks have only been reported in some countries in tropical Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.
The virus spread to Brazil for the first time in May and continued to spread through the following several months.
The virus has now been identified in Mexico, several countries in the Caribbean, Central America, the Pacific Islands and South America, and the Centers for Disease Control expects it to continue spreading.
Though the virus isn't being locally transmitted in the United States, there have been more than 250 cases of travel-associated Zika virus disease, including 18 pregnant women. Six of those 18 cases involved the virus being sexually transmitted to the pregnant woman from a partner who tested positive. Two of the travel-associated cases Colorado residents.
The CDC is recommending pregnant women consider postponing travel to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Those who must travel should talk to a healthcare provider first and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the trip, according to the CDC.
The likelihood of contracting Zika virus once exposed or of a pregnant woman passing Zika on to her baby is still unknown.
Apart from Zika, Petersen said pregnant women should always take precautions when considering long-distance travel.
"Check the CDC website, cdc.gov, for any travel warnings," Petersen said. "Blood clots in legs and emboli — a blood clot that travels through the bloodstream to the lungs — can be deadly and are more common in pregnancy. Long-distance travel, air travel and immobility are all risk factors."
For the latest information on Zika virus, see http://www.cdc.gov.