By Lorrie Harris-Sagaribay, MotherToBaby North Carolina
This time last year, talk of Zika was all over the news and social media. Based on the lack of coverage in the media today, you would think Zika is no longer a concern. But the risk of Zika infection for travelers, and its potentially devastating consequences for expectant parents and their developing babies, is still very real. Nearly 100 countries still report low levels of Zika virus transmission, which means increased risks for travelers to those countries.
Does this mean that pregnant women and their partners, or couples who are planning a pregnancy, shouldn’t travel at all? Of course not. But knowing where to travel and what precautions to take during and after your trip can go a long way!
Before you go
During your trip
If you do travel to an area with a risk of Zika, remember to pack two things: bug spray and condoms. Not exactly the stuff of dream vacations, but taking precautions to avoid mosquito bites is essential. And since Zika can also be sexually transmitted, one partner can pass it to the other through sex (even if they don’t have symptoms of the virus). Using condoms is recommended starting from when you arrive at your destination. Of course, choosing a Zika-free destination eliminates the need for these extra precautions.
After you’re back
Continue to use insect repellent for 3 weeks to avoid getting bitten by local mosquitoes that can then bite (and infect) others.
Get tested if you develop symptoms of Zika virus (fever, body rash, red eyes, headache, muscle or joint pain). But no symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean no Zika, as only about 1 in 5 infected people develop symptoms.
If you are pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider about your travel. If you have a pregnant partner, continue to use condoms for the REST of the pregnancy to avoid passing the virus to your partner through sex. And if you and your partner are not yet pregnant, postpone getting pregnant for at least 2 months (for women who traveled) or at least 3 months (for men who traveled) to allow time for the virus to clear from your blood and/or semen.
Lorrie Harris-Sagaribay, MPH, coordinates MotherToBaby North Carolina, housed at the Mission Fullerton Genetics Center. MotherToBaby is a free service of the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS).
Have more questions about Zika? Contact MotherToBaby toll-free 800-532-6302 or email or live chat at MotherToBaby.org.