As if we needed ANOTHER reason to HATE mosquitoes
I effing HATE mosquitoes. Seriously. Can someone please explain to me why why WHY they always manage to sink their greedy little fangs into the absolute worst of places? Very few things are worse than having a quarter-sized welt right in your ass-crack or underwear line that itches with the intensity of a toddler meltdown SMACK in the middle of a meeting with your supervisor. There’s only so much shifting around in your seat you can do before you have to start explaining things. Mosquitoes are RUDE, and come to find out, in certain parts of the world they could actually be dangerous too. Effers.
The Zika virus hasn’t received a lot of attention lately but it’s still just as relevant today as when it was in the news a few years ago. Zika is spread by infected mosquitoes and typically causes mild or nonexistent symptoms to those who contract the virus, but an infection before or during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects and in rare cases, stillbirth. As a result, The Center for Disease Control has issued special travel precautions for pregnant women or those trying to become pregnant. Here’s what you need to know about the Zika virus and the obnoxious insects that transmit it:
If you’re currently pregnant or will be trying to get pregnant within the next six months, yes. Otherwise, as long as you’re using bug spray or other insect repellent, you shouldn’t be concerned.
You can contract the Zika virus by getting bitten by an infected mosquito. Only certain types of mosquitoes carry the Zika virus and they bite during both day and night. You can also contract Zika by having sex without a condom with a male partner who has been infected with Zika. Zika can live in semen for up to 6 months, with some speculation this could be even longer. Who knew?
Mainly in warmer, tropical areas conducive to mosquito growth that may include a lot of your ports of call: The Caribbean, Africa, South America, Central America, and some Asian countries. So far in 2018, no mosquito-borne Zika virus transmission has been reported in the continental U.S. Whew!
The Center for Disease Control has an archive and world map of all past and present Zika activity. There are two different types of categories for Zika infection: Areas with Risk and Areas with Interrupted Transmission. Areas with Risk are current high-risk areas, and Areas with Interrupted Transmission are areas where Zika activity has occurred in the past but has been determined no longer active. If you’re planning a trip to Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, Fiji, or South America, be sure to check this list.
Symptoms of Zika are typically very mild, so most adults and children who contract it don’t even get sick or know they have the virus. People who do show symptoms may report fever, rash, headache, joint pain, red eyes, and muscle pain. If you have any of the symptoms above and have recently traveled to an area with the risk of Zika transmission, be sure to contact your doctor immediately. They will likely do a blood test to rule out or confirm the presence of the virus.
Researchers believe Zika can pass through the placenta to your baby, potentially causing serious birth defects, including growth issues, microcephaly and other severe brain deformations. While not guaranteed your baby will be born or develop any of these defects, odds are increased. Zika is also linked to a higher rate of miscarriage and stillbirths. Scary stuff.
Pregnant women should not travel to areas with a risk of Zika infection unless it is absolutely necessary. If you live in or must travel to one of these areas, speak with your healthcare provider and take strict precautions to minimize the chances of contracting the virus. After returning from your trip, check in with your healthcare provider, even if you don’t feel sick. Typically routine testing isn’t recommended for women who don’t show symptoms of infection, but this is a case by case basis with your doctor.
The best way of preventing Zika infection while trying to conceive is to avoid traveling to an area where Zika infection is possible. If you must travel to one of these areas, take strict precautions to minimize the chances of contracting the virus. The Zika virus only lives in your bloodstream for a week, then once it leaves your body the risk of birth defects disappears. If you’re traveling solo and your partner is at home, wait at least a week after returning to have sex. If you’re traveling with a male partner OR plan on conceiving with a male who has traveled to a Zika-prone region, wait at least 6 months before trying to conceive. If you don’t want to wait that long your male partner can request a test from his doctor sooner to see if he’s been infected with the virus.
Based on current evidence and research, the Zika virus does not pose a risk for birth defects in future pregnancies once the virus have left a woman’s bloodstream, which takes about a week.
If you are infected with Zika and a mosquito bites you, that mosquito is now also carrying the Zika virus and can spread it to any other person it bites. MOSQUITOES SUCK…no pun intended.
Wear long sleeved pants and shirts as much as possible in high-risk areas and try to avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, usually at dusk and at nighttime. Use bug spray with DEET or if those chemicals bother you, you can also use oil of lemon eucalyptus. If applying sunscreen and insect repellent at the same time, apply sunscreen first. Stay in places with air-conditioning and/or screens in windows or consider sleeping under a mosquito net to protect you at night. To prevent sexual transmission, use a condom…or don’t have sex.
Kids can be at a higher risk of contracting Zika, mainly because they’re at a higher risk of being bitten by mosquitoes to begin with. Mosquitoes love to sink their teeth into yummy chubby baby legs. To protect your kids, be sure to adhere to the same prevention methods you would use on yourself. It’s not safe to use oil of lemon eucalyptus on a child younger than 3, and mamas I know that the chemicals in DEET can be harsh and essential oils are great but if you’re traveling to a high risk area please just this one time use DEET. It’s the most effective way to protect your kids against insect bites that could really cause them harm. DEET and most other bug sprays are not safe to use on children younger than 2 months so please speak with a medical professional (or Google) before brewing up your own batch of repellent. You can also purchase inexpensive nets that snugly fit over car seats, strollers, and cribs to keep mosquitoes away from your babies.
Generally, if you take precautions and use bug spray Zika won’t be an issue for you or your family. If you’re pregnant, avoid travel to high-risk areas. If you’ve already made plans to cruise to a high-risk area and are actively trying to get pregnant, consider holding off on the trip or changing destinations…or holding off on the babymaking. Researchers don’t yet have a percentage probability of infection, but some things just aren’t worth the risk.
Pregnant and desperate for a tropical Babymoon? Consider traveling to The Bahamas or Cayman Islands. The CDC has recently determined that Zika is no longer active here. And hey, there’s Florida too!
*Information gathered from the Center for Disease Control