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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Be Informed: Zika and Pregnancy

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Q. How does Zika affect pregnancy?
A. Zika can cause a range of devastating birth defects, including microcephaly, in which babies are born with abnormally small heads and, in most cases, incomplete brain development, according to the World Health Organization. Some babies affected by Zika have vision loss, clubfoot or joints that won't unbend. Other fetuses don't grow at the normal rate. Zika is also linked to miscarriage and stillbirth.
Q. Should all pregnant women be tested for Zika?
A. Not according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The federal health agency recommends that doctors assess all pregnant women for possible Zika exposure during every prenatal visit, such as by asking women if they or their sexual partners have traveled recently. That conversation can determine whether women should be tested for Zika.
Q. If a girl or woman is infected with Zika today, will the virus harm a future pregnancy?
A. Probably not. Scientists believe that people infected by Zika develop immunity to it, just as with any other virus, such as chickenpox or measles, said William Schaffner, a professor at Vanderbilt School of Medicine in Nashville.
"If a woman happens to get infected with Zika right now, her body will clear the virus completely and, years from now, there will be no Zika-related complications to her pregnancy," Schaffner said.
Q. How can doctors predict Zika's affect on future pregnancies, given that scientists know so little about Zika?
A. Zika appears to behave very much like the rubella virus, also known as German measles, which caused large outbreaks in the 1960's, Schaffner said.
While both Zika and rubella cause a mild illness in adults and children, both viruses can be catastrophic in pregnant women are infected, causing children to be born with a range of disabilities, Schaffner said. Rubella can cause developmental delays, blindness, deafness and other problems. Rubella has been eliminated in theAmericas through vaccines.
Q. Do men need to worry about Zika?
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