The Zika virus caused quite the stir last summer. It has been linked to birth defects and major health problems in young children.
But this year, public health experts know more about the disease than ever. Here’s what you need to know about it too.
Firstly, pregnant women should worry the most about Zika. “Our general advice is that if you are pregnant, you should not go to places where Zika virus transmission is ongoing,” said Dr. Lyle Peterson, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC website also provides an exhaustive list of locations with active Zika transmission. You best bet is to steer clear of anywhere on that register.
In any area with Zika, couples that are pregnant need to use condoms or avoid sex altogether. The first trimester is particularly dangerous for the unborn: 15 percent of women infected with Zika during the first trimester saw their child born with birth defects.
Altogether, 5-10 percent of pregnant women with Zika will experience problems during pregnancy.
If you plan on getting pregnant, wait at least eight weeks after returning home before conceiving.
Zika is typically transmitted by mosquito’s, specifically Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus.
“In all of the places where we have this kind of mosquito that can spread Zika Virus, we also see the kinds of mosquito’s that can spread West Nile and other diseases,” said Dr. Peterson.
“General mosquito precautions in the summer are important for everybody, not only pregnant women.”
This year, nearly 700 Americans have contracted Zika. Unfortunately, those who have never experience symptoms.
Dr. Peterson, though, is remaining optimistic.
“We would expect that outbreaks this year throughout the Western Hemisphere are going to be less than they were the year before,” said Dr. Peterson.
“But since a lot of people have already been infected and are no longer susceptible… it will lower the number of cases over time.”