Medical Moment: Pregnant Women & Zika Virus

Medical Moment: Pregnant Women & Zika Virus

Telluride Inside… and Out is proud to feature the Telluride Medical Center’s MEDICAL MOMENT, a weekly column that answers common medical questions in pop culture. 

Car. Heather Linder

Car. Heather Linder


Dr. Heather Linder answers this week’s question: What should pregnant women know about Zika virus?  (part 2) 

The Zika virus is related to dengue and yellow fever and is primarily transmitted by the Aedes mosquito. There is no vaccine to prevent Zika. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) currently advise against travel to countries experiencing Zika outbreaks, especially for pregnant women. Countries in South and Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean have been effected by the virus. For an up-to-date list of effected countries, please visit the CDC website here.

 The Zika virus is diagnosed by a blood test through the CDC. Four out of five people infected with the Zika virus do not experience symptoms. Symptoms are usually mild and may last from a few days to a week and include – fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, muscle pain and headache.

 However, it has been found that the virus can be spread from pregnant women to the fetus and may cause devastating birth defects, including microcephaly and brain damage. The CDC strongly recommends that pregnant women avoid travel to areas with Zika virus outbreaks. 

Although there is no definitive evidence that the Zika virus causes microcephaly, current research indicates there may be a link to the increase in microcephaly and brain damage found in Brazil and other effected areas. Microcephaly means a baby’s head develops to be smaller than normal, a birth defect that has been linked to seizures; developmental problems including disorders with speech, sitting, standing or walking; intellectual disability; problems with movement and feeding, including difficulty swallowing, hearing loss, and vision problems.

There is also concern the Zika virus may increase the risk of miscarriage. There have been two documented cases of pregnant U.S. women who miscarried after travel abroad. Zika was detected in the placenta.

 For pregnant women who have traveled to a country with Zika virus and develop symptoms within two weeks of travel, a blood test is recommended. Ultrasounds should be done to look for microcephaly and calcifications within the brain of the fetus. An amniocentesis to detect Zika virus in the amniotic fluid can also be performed.  Pregnant women who do not show symptoms can still seek a blood test 2-12 weeks after travel.

***Telluride Medical Center Quickfacts 2016 -For a brief update on the current state of the Telluride Medical Center, growth figures for 2015, plans for a new facility in Mountain Village, as well as the funding strategy for the new facility, click here.

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