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Recently, some friends and I were talking about planning a trip to Puerto Rico before my friend has her baby in August. However, those plans have changed since the World Health Organisation has declared that a recent surge in birth defects are potentially linked to a virus called Zika Virus. In fact, my friend’s doctor urged her to travel elsewhere for our pre-baby getaway. The outbreak began in Brazil, and CDC has a list of countries that are reporting cases of Zika. The good news is that it’s being reported that Australian dengue fever researchers may have a solution to the Zika outbreak.

If you’re pregnant or TTC, where should you avoid travelling right now?

Africa: Cape Verde

The Caribbean: Barbados, Curaçao, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, US Virgin Islands

Central America: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama

The Pacific Islands: American Samoa, Samoa, Tonga

South America: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela

What is Zika virus, and how is it transmitted? 

Zika virus is a mosquito-borne virus related to the Dengue, Yellow Fever, West Nile, and Chikungunya family of viruses. Anyone can be bitten by the Aedes species mosquito, but pregnant women must be especially cautious because Zika virus can be transmitted to the foetus during pregnancy. Zika virus is generally not sexually transmitted, and is not known to be deadly. 

What are the symptoms of Zika virus? 

Symptoms include severe fever with maculopapular rash (flat, red rash covered with bumps), joint or muscle pain, headache, or pink eye. According to the CDC, symptoms can develop for up to a week after a mosquito bite. 

How does Zika virus affect unborn babies? 

The CDC has reported cases in which the virus has caused a severe birth defect called Microcephaly, a condition that leaves babies with abnormally small heads (and brains) compared to other similarly aged/sized babies. Other birth defects are unknown at this time.

What should you do if you’re pregnant and you must travel to an areas that’s affected by Zika virus? 

Subscribe to updates on the Zika virus at DFAT. However, if travel is necessary, definitely talk to your healthcare provider and take all necessary precautions to avoid mosquito bites (stay indoors when possible, always wear long sleeves and pants, use insect spray, and spray clothes with an antiparasitic repellent).

At this point, Zika has been confirmed in only two cases in Australia and the NSW Health department is working with healthcare providers to make the public aware of the virus, as well as detect and report any new cases to prevent the disease from spreading further.

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Photo: Getty