While the New Orleans Mosquito and Termite Control Board wages an impressive war against the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which can carry the Zika virus, it’s still seriously scary—and a growing concern in our sub-tropical region—for anyone who is, or is looking to become, pregnant.
Although the illness is usually mild (yielding a fever, rash, joint pain, and possibly conjunctivitis), it can be passed from a mother to her developing fetus and lead to a serious birth defect, microcephaly.
1. The virus is transmitted by bites from an infected mosquito as well as through unprotected sex—vaginal, oral and anal—with a male partner who has had the Zika infection.
2. So far, the only cases in Louisiana were contracted in other countries. For the virus to spread here, someone with active Zika virus must be bitten by a local Aedes aegypti mosquito, and then that mosquito bite another person.
3. While pregnant, avoid travelling to areas where the Zika virus is active, or for up to 6 months prior to trying to becoming pregnant. (see CDC.gov for up-to-date travel info.) If you and/or your partner have travelled to an area with a known Zika outbreak, contact your doctor, even if neither one of you feels sick.
4. Use condoms—even if you are already pregnant—if your partner has recently travelled to an area with an active Zika outbreak. “The Zika virus can live in semen longer than in human blood, up to six months,” says Dr. Tonya Wright, M.D., an OB/Gyn from Tulane-Lakeside Hospital. “Men play a very important role with its transmission.”
5. To minimize mosquito bites here, use insect repellant, especially if pregnant or trying to conceive. Look for those with ingredients registered with the EPA: those containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide longer-lasting protection.
Dr. Wright says, “We’re really fortunate because locally, none of the mosquitoes that can carry the virus have been infected yet.” Still, as a precaution, she’d like women to be well informed about the virus if they’re pregnant, or planning to become so.
If you’re pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant and want to talk to a doctor about Zika, Dr. Wright welcomes patients to her Metairie Clinic at theTulane Center for Women’s Health. Call 504.988.2160 to make an appointment.