Popular questions that have recently come up amongst my patients have been about the ZIKA VIRUS.

As many of us like to do, many of my patients enjoy vacationing in warm climates. Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Miami are but a few. One important thing these popular vacation spots have in common is sun and fun. However, these regions also have a lot of Mosquitos.

Zika infected mosquitos can transmit the Zika virus through a mosquito bite.   In adults with healthy immune systems, Zika virus leads to benign typical symptoms of headache, fever, muscle and joint pain. BUT what makes the Zika virus dangerous is that it can cross the placenta in a pregnant woman and infect the baby. Babies with their weak immune systems if exposed to the Zika virus, are at risk for serious birth defects like Microcephaly, small underdeveloped brain, Clubfoot, twisted foot, muscle and joint stiffness. If a pregnant woman is exposed to the Zika virus she must get tested.

I perform nucleic acid testing, NAT, on blood and urine samples to detect the Zika virus. If a pregnant woman is found to be infected by the Zika virus, she needs an amniocentesis to see if the baby is infected.

An amniocentesis is a procedure performed under ultrasound visualization where a needle is inserted into the pregnancy sac and amniotic fluid is extracted. NAT is than performed on the fluid. If positive, the baby is exposed and at risk for birth defects. The pregnancy would then undergo intermittent ultrasounds to monitor the development of the baby.

Because of the serious nature of the Zika virus on a fetus, there are a number of important recommendations to remember. Don’t travel to mosquito infested areas if pregnant or trying to get pregnant. Next, if your travel potentially exposes you to mosquitos and the Zika virus, a man should wait 6 months and a woman should wait 2 months before attempting to get pregnant. Also, whenever possible, wear long sleeve shirt and pants as well as use insect repellent to reduce the risk of mosquito bites.

If you have any more questions or would like to get tested for the Zika virus, make an appointment and come by the office.

BE AWARE AND TAKE CARE of your health

By Leonid Sorkin MD, FACOG