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In the wake of the possible outbreak of the Zika virus in central and South America, pregnant women have been asked to exercise caution when traveling to exotic locations, or preferably, postponing these trips entirely. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) released interim guidelines on Tuesday for pregnant women during the current Zika virus outbreak. Dr. Brenna Hughes, chief of the Women's Infectious Disease Consultative Service at Women & Infants and an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, offers this summary of what you need to know as a pregnant woman. At this point, very little is known about the risk of Zika virus in pregnancy so these recommendations are likely to change and represent a cautious approach given the lack of knowledge.

Zika virus is a mosquito-borne virus.

Pregnant women in any trimester can be infected with Zika virus. Pregnant women should avoid travel to countries where the CDC advisory applies. If pregnant women travel to an area where there is known virus transmission, she should follow steps to avoid mosquito bites.

There is no commercial vaccine or antiviral treatment to prevent Zika virus.

Because there is no vaccine or medications available to prevent the virus, the CDC recommends that all pregnant women consider postponing travel to areas where the transmission is ongoing. Common destinations where one should practice enhanced precautions include: Central America, South America, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Caribbean, Burma, Arabian Peninsula, Nigeria, Ukraine, Laos, Madagascar, and Guinea. This list is likely to change as we learn more about the virus, visit the CDC website for updates. Travel Notices

The mosquitos that spread the virus bite both indoors and outdoors, mostly during the daytime. 

This mosquito is unusual because of its daytime activity, not just at dusk and dawn. Keep yourself protected from bites by:

  • Wearing long sleeve shirts and pants
  • Applying insect repellent. Insect repellents, when used as directed on the product label, are safe for pregnant women to use.
  • Staying in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms.

What are the symptoms?

If you are a pregnant woman with recent (within 2 weeks) history of travel to an area with Zika virus transmission and have two or more of the following symptoms, call your obstetric provider:
  • Acute onset of fever.
  • Maculopapular rash - flat, red area on the skin that is covered with small bumps. 
  • Arthralgia – pain in one or more of your joints. 
  • Pink eye

What will the Zika virus test reveal?

Some women may require laboratory evaluation or fetal ultrasound during their pregnancies. In women suspected of having Zika virus infection during pregnancy, a recommended next step is referral to a maternal-fetal medicine specialist.

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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