Zika Virus: An Open Letter To Our Patients
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published interim guidance for healthcare providers caring for women of reproductive age with possible Zika virus exposure. The Zika virus has garnished a great deal of attention due to the risk of poor pregnancy outcomes and birth defects including pregnancy loss (miscarriage), microcephaly, and brain and eye abnormalities. Most concerning about the Zika virus is the limited data known about the transmission and risk of birth defects with exposure. These updated guidelines include recommendations on counseling women (and men) with possible Zika virus exposure who are interested in conceiving.
Zika Virus disease: Zika virus disease is defined as having at least one of the following signs or symptoms: acute onset of fever, rash, arthralgia, conjunctivitis, and laboratory confirmation of the Zika virus. In the event a person has symptoms after possible exposure, but did not have testing, the recommendations for persons with Zika virus disease should be followed; in other words, assume that they would test positive.
Possible exposure to Zika virus: Possible exposure to Zika virus is defined as traveling to, or residence in, an active area of Zika virus transmission, or unprotected intercourse with a man who has traveled or resided in these areas of active transmission. (http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/active-countries.html)
- Women (and men) with possible exposure to Zika virus (for example, travel to Mexico) but without clinical illness consistent with Zika virus should wait at least 8 weeks after exposure before attempting conception.
- Women who have had Zika virus disease should wait at least 8 weeks after symptom onset to attempt conception (and men with Zika virus should wait at least 6 months after symptom onset before attempting conception.)
- Currently, there is no testing recommended for patients who are asymptomatic, and who are not pregnant. So, if you travel to Mexico for example, the CDC recommends waiting 8 weeks before attempting conception.
- If you are pregnant, and live in the Dallas – Fort Worth metroplex (an area without known active Zika virus transmission), but have had possible Zika virus exposure such as travel to Mexico during the 8 weeks before conception (or 6 weeks before the last menstrual period), you should undergo blood testing between 2 – 12 weeks after returning from travel.
- All pregnant women with possible exposure and signs of symptoms of acute disease should be tested.
- Testing for the Zika virus will be conducted by sending blood samples to the Dallas County Health Department (or Texas Department of State Health Services), and these samples may be sent to the Centers for Disease Control.
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Traveling to Florida? Get the most updated information from the CDC here>>