Due to new data collection registries developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the reported number of pregnant women infected by the Zika virus has nearly tripled to 279 in the United States and its territories.
The two registries, US Zika Pregnancy Registry and the Zika Active Pregnancy Surveillance System in Puerto Rico, now include all women who test positive for the Zika virus, not just those experiencing Zika virus symptoms.
Dr. Maja Middleton, an obstetrician and gynecologist with Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill., says this is an important step in the right direction, as only 20 percent of people infected with Zika will display symptoms, which are often mild and vague, such as a fever and muscle aches.
If you suspect a Zika virus infection, Dr. Middleton urges you follow the CDC recommendations.
- Inform your physician of all recent travel.
- Be sure to schedule an appointment if you have visited an area where Zika is found and have subsequently developed fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis (red eyes) muscle pain or headache.
- If you are pregnant and are experiencing any such symptoms, be sure to contact your doctor.
“Any specific questions or concerns should be addressed by a patient’s physician,” says Dr. Middleton. “Every day, we as a medical community are learning new things, so as the summer progresses, we should expect to have new knowledge and testing/treatment plans for Zika.”
Moving forward, all new cases of possible Zika virus infection confirmed through lab work and reported through the registries will be released each week. As a result, more comprehensive data will be available to inform prevention and clinical care services.
Additionally, President Obama requested $1.9 billion in emergency funds to fight Zika in February. On May 17, the Senate approved $1.1 billion in emergency funds, and the House approved reallocation of $622 million from other programs. These proposals have yet to be reconciled.
In the meantime, Dr. Middleton stresses that all pregnant women should pay close attention to the current prevention methods, including:
- Avoid traveling to areas with active transmission if you are pregnant or planning pregnancy in the immediate future.
- Protect yourself against mosquito bites by wearing long sleeves and using mosquito repellent with DEET (at least 20%), or by staying in buildings with screened-in windows and air conditioning.