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What You Need to Know About the Zika Virus

What Is Zika?

Zika is a disease caused by the Zika virus. It is spread to people primarily through the bites of infected mosquitoes, though sexual transmission of the disease has now been documented.

Not every species of mosquito carries the virus, but the type that has spread the most Zika cases — Aedes aegypti, or the yellow fever mosquito — is common throughout Florida and the Gulf Coast region of the United States. The virus can also be spread by Aedes albopictus, the Asian tiger mosquito, which can be found as far north as New York and Chicago during the summer.

The leading concern about the Zika virus is its link to incidents of a particular birth defect called microcephaly. Pregnant women infected with the Zika virus are at a higher risk of giving birth to newborns with microcephaly. Zika infection of the fetus has also been linked to vision problems, hearing deficits and impaired growth.

West Georgia and Zika

At present, mosquitoes tested in the west Georgia area have not been shown to be affected by the Zika virus. Rest assured that mosquitoes in every state in the Gulf Coast region, including Georgia, are being monitoring closely.

To protect yourself from Zika, use insect repellent when you are outdoors, and remove all sources of standing water, including tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flowerpot saucers or trash containers, from around your home and neighborhood where mosquitoes might breed and lay eggs. Learn more about Protecting Yourself From Zika.

Zika in the United States

Travel-associated cases of Zika have now been reported in 47 out of 50 U.S. states. However, at this time, locally-acquired cases have only been confirmed in one neighborhood of Miami and in three U.S. territories: American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Florida Department of Health has identified an area in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami where Zika is being spread by mosquitoes. The CDC has created the following guidelines for people who live in or have traveled to the Wynwood area any time after June 15 (based on the earliest time symptoms can start and the maximum 2-week incubation period for Zika virus), as well as the three U.S. territories listed above:

  • Pregnant women should not travel to this area.
  • Pregnant women and their partners living in or traveling to this area should follow steps to prevent mosquito bites.
  • Women and men who live in or traveled to this area and who have a pregnant sex partner should use condoms or other barriers to prevent infection every time they have sex or not have sex during the pregnancy.
  • Pregnant women who live in or frequently travel to this area should be tested in the first and second trimester of pregnancy.
  • Pregnant women who traveled to or had unprotected sex with a partner who traveled to or lives in this area should talk to their healthcare provider and should be tested for Zika.
  • Women and men who live in or frequently travel to this area should talk to their healthcare provider.
  • Women and men who traveled to this area should wait at least 8 weeks before trying to get pregnant.
  • Women with Zika should wait at least 8 weeks and men with Zika should wait at least 6 months after symptoms began to try to get pregnant.

Click for the complete guidelines and more information about the Zika virus in Florida.

What Are Obstetricians Doing?

Tanner's team of board-certified obstetric specialists and obstetricians elsewhere are currently applying the latest practice recommendations from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to evaluate and test pregnant mothers for the Zika virus.

It is essential that pregnant women receive adequate prenatal care to ensure adequate screening and counseling related to Zika, as well as other potential health concerns.

The CDC provides a thorough overview of Zika and its concerns in this handout (.pdf).

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