The Zika virus is concerning to all, but especially alarming to families who are pregnant or desiring pregnancy. As providers, we would like to address your fears with evidence based information. This information is ever changing, so consult the Center for Disease Control at CDC/zika virus in pregnancy for more updates.
The Zika virus was detected in 2014 in Chile, then in Brazil in 2015. Zika is a mosquito borne virus carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito . It lives in tropical regions below 6500 feet and usually bites during daytime.
Zika can be transmitted by
- Bite from infected mosquito
- Maternal fetal transmission
- Blood transfusion
The incubation period from mosquito bite to symptom is typically 2-14 days. Illness is usually mild and resolves within 2-7 days. Only 25% of people have any signs. You receive immunity once you have had a primary infection. The symptoms may be as follows
- Low grade fever
- Itchy rash
- Painful joints ( usually hands and feet)
- Red eyes ( conjunctivitis)
So what can you do to prevent Zika infection? There is no vaccine for prevention. So the real question is “what can I do to protect myself and my baby against Zika?”
- Avoid travel to areas with documented mosquito transmission of Zika- again the CDC has a map on the geographic distribution of Zika.
- Protect yourself against sexual transmission- abstinence or condoms if partner has traveled to exposure areas
- The CDC advises EPA approved insect repellents. I quote “insect repellents approved by EPA have no known harmful effects if used according to directions”. More on this later in the article. ( epa.gov/insect-repellents)
- Wear long sleeve shirts and pants if travelling to high risk areas or outside activities with risk of bites
- Control mosquito inside and outside of your home. Remove still water. To note Mosquito Joe and line companies use barrier sprays with synthetic forms of pyrethrins which are a byproduct of the Chrysanthemum flower. They have a garlic spray that is used around vegetable gardens and fish ponds.
- Breastfeeding transmission has not been reported, although the virus has been detected in breast milk. No developmental delays have been noted with breastfed infant exposure, although there has been minimal research to date.
- Women planning pregnancy who have had Zika should wait 8 weeks after symptom onset before attempting conception. Men with symptomatic Zika infection should wait 6 months before having unprotected sex. Asymptomatic men, who traveled to mosquito transmission areas, should wait 8 weeks before having unprotected sex.
All insect repellents that are EPA approved have DEET, picaridin and or oil of lemon eucalyptus. They are labeled safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding. Follow directions. DO NOT use repellents on babies younger than 2 months. Oil of eucalyptus should not be used on children under age 3. Put sunscreen on first, and then bug spray. Permetrin products are intended to treat clothing only.
- DEET chemicals have been studied to be safe by EPA. If ingested can have severe toxicity. No studies in first trimester have been done.
- Lemon Eucalyptus plant is a derived essential oil. Concentrations of 40% are as effective as 20% DEET.
- Picardin is synthetic compounded oil found in pepper. Should not be orally ingested
- Consumer Report tested repellents and found the most effective products against Aedes mosquitos. They were rated (1-100) with 100 being the best
- Sawyer Picardin (96) and Natrapel ( 81) lasted 8 hours which contains 20% picardin
- Off! Deepwoods VIII ( 74) comparable to DEET 25%, Product lasted 8 hrs. Ben’s 30% DEET (93) lasted 7 hours
- Repel Lemon Eucalyptus (87) stopped mosquitos for 7 hrs
- Natural plant oils (California baby natural bug blend (22); Eco smart Organic (7) did not last more than 1 hour and some natural oils failed immediately. Avon skin so soft (62) lasted 3 hours. Burt’s Bees (28) lasted 1 hour
If you desire Essential Oils, I would refer you to a reputable advisor. We use Christie Jones , who is a knowledgeable distributor for Young Living Oils. You can contact her at her website birthinsightva.
This information is basic, but evidenced based. It is not designed to be inclusive of all knowledge of Zika. Let this information be a beginning; do your own research. You are responsible for your own healthcare management and we trust that you will make choices that will serve your family