Zika virus and pregnancy: what you need to know

Zika virus and pregnancy: what you need to know

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In recent years, the Zika virus has caused a real epidemic in several American countries. For most people, this virus is completely benign: only pregnant women should be wary because it sometimes causes fetal malformations.

Zika virus: what are the modes of transmission?

  • The Zika virus is mainly transmitted by the bite of the tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), but there are also some cases of sexual transmission, from man to woman (the virus can be found in semen). This virus can also be transmitted from the mother to the fetus, but this is not systematic ...
  • The Zika virus was first identified in humans in the 1970s, first in Africa and then in Asia. Since then, it has spread to other parts of the world. Nowadays, Zika virus is mainly present in South America and Central America, more precisely in the following countries: Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, Suriname, Panama, Paraguay, Venezuela and Honduras. There is also a risk of contracting the Zika virus in Guadeloupe, Martinique and Guyana.
  • Even if the tiger mosquito is present in the south of France (in spring and summer), the rare cases of Zika virus infections discovered in metropolitan France are "imported" cases, that is to say people who contracted the virus while traveling abroad ...

Zika virus: symptoms and diagnosis

  • In general, Zika virus infection does not cause any symptoms. More rarely, it appears a few days after the mosquito bite with fever, fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting, rash or conjunctivitis ...
  • These symptoms usually disappear in two to seven days: even though they may be due to many other minor infections, do not hesitate to consult your doctor, as a precaution, if you come back from a country at risk. All that is needed is a blood test to confirm the presence of the virus. It should ideally be done one month after infection for the results to be as reliable as possible.
  • There is no cure for this disease but, if necessary, the doctor can set up a close pregnancy monitoring (several ultrasounds to control the cranial perimeter, even amniocentesis in some cases).

Zika virus: the risks and the means to guard against them

  • Sometimes the Zika virus contaminates the fetus during pregnancy: doctors still do not know why this infection is transmitted in some cases and not in others.
  • When the fetus is reached, the main complication detected is microcephaly (cranial perimeter and brain smaller than normal); there are other less common complications such as hearing problems, for example. This microcephaly can be linked to more or less significant mental retardation but sometimes it is not the case.
  • To protect yourself, the easiest way is not to travel to countries at risk during your pregnancy or to protect yourself from mosquitoes by all means if you have to stay (mosquito nets, repellents, etc.). Finally, avoid having unprotected sex with a man returning from these countries.
  • If you plan to become pregnant while coming from a country at risk, wait a few months for your body to get rid of the viruses.

If you live in an endemic area, protect yourself from mosquito bites:

  • avoid going out at the beginning and end of the day (these are the periods for which tiger mosquitoes remain more aggressive),
  • apply repellents,
  • wear wide clothes that cover your whole body,
  • use mosquito nets,
  • sanitize your place of residence: remove stagnant water and all the places and conditions conducive to the development of mosquitoes (garbage cans, shrubs ...)