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Release Date: 02/12/2016

Maternal-fetal medicine specialist, Brenna L. Hughes, MD, chief of the Women's Infectious Diseases Consultative Service at Women & Infants Hospital, a Care New England hospital, and an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, joined a panel discussion Wednesday at Brown University’s Watson Institute, to discuss the Zika virus. The panel also included Dr. Rebecca Reece, medical consultant, Rhode Island Department of Health Division of Preparedness, Response, Infectious Disease, and Emergency Medical Services, and clinical assistant professor of medicine, Alpert Medical School; Mark Lurie, associate professor, epidemiology, Brown University School of Public Health; and Dr. Maria Mileno, associate professor of medicine, Alpert Medical School.

Dr. Hughes focused her portion of the discussion on the testing and unconfirmed correlation being made between the Zika virus and birth defects. Dr. Hughes expressed that there are more unknowns than knowns at this time when it comes to Zika and pregnancy. "We do not know how Zika attacks fetuses to cause microcephaly," said Dr. Hughes. Due to the high amount of uncertainties, it was stressed further that those who are pregnant or trying to be become pregnant should postpone or not travel at all to those regions considered high-risk zones. If travel is required, careful attention to preventing mosquito bites is necessary.

Dr. Hughes also addressed the notion of mothers who may contract Zika virus, have an infant, and are not sure about continuing breastfeeding at the risk of infecting the child. “At this point, the CDC believes that the benefits of breast milk outweigh the possible effects of the virus if infected with Zika,” said Dr. Hughes.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) now recommends all pregnant women who have traveled to endemic areas be offered Zika blood tests and ultrasounds. However, Dr. Hughes is concerned about the testing burden for the CDC caused by an influx of patients, but hopes to get a clearer picture this from the Rhode Island Department of Health as the testing recommendations roll out locally.

Watch the panel discussion from Wednesday in its entirety.

About Women & Infants Hospital

Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, a Care New England hospital, is one of the nation’s leading specialty hospitals for women and newborns. A major teaching affiliate of The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University for obstetrics, gynecology and newborn pediatrics, as well as a number of specialized programs in women’s medicine, Women & Infants is the 12th largest stand-alone obstetrical service in the country and the largest in New England with approximately 8,500 deliveries per year. A Designated Baby-Friendly® USA hospital, U.S.News & World Report 2014-15 Best Children’s Hospital in Neonatology and a 2014 Leapfrog Top Hospital, in 2009 Women & Infants opened what was at the time the country’s largest, single-family room neonatal intensive care unit.

Women & Infants and Brown offer fellowship programs in gynecologic oncology, maternal-fetal medicine, urogynecology and reconstructive pelvic surgery, neonatal-perinatal medicine, pediatric and perinatal pathology, gynecologic pathology and cytopathology, and reproductive endocrinology and infertility. It is home to the nation’s first mother-baby perinatal psychiatric partial hospital, as well as the nation’s only fellowship program in obstetric medicine.

Women & Infants has been designated as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiography; a Center of Excellence in Minimally Invasive Gynecology; a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence by the National Institutes of Health (NIH); and a Neonatal Resource Services Center of Excellence. It is one of the largest and most prestigious research facilities in high risk and normal obstetrics, gynecology and newborn pediatrics in the nation, and is a member of the National Cancer Institute’s Gynecologic Oncology Group and the Pelvic Floor Disorders Network.
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