A Florida congresswoman and medical experts want to make sure pregnant women are informed about the dangers of the Zika virus, spread by a type of infected mosquito. U.S. Representative Kathy Castor held a news conference this week to discuss the latest developments and how local families can protect themselves against Zika when traveling or in the event mosquitos carrying the virus are found in Florida.
At the news conference, Jose Prieto, M.D., maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital, explained how Zika has recently been linked to microcephaly - a condition causing brain defects in unborn babies. "Microcephaly is a condition that has devastating long-term consequences," Dr. Prieto added. "These newborns may be affected with seizures, hearing loss and other devastating intellectual and cognitive impairments that place a great burden on pregnant women and their families."
Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital has assembled a task force which includes experts in patient safety, infectious disease, brain disorders and maternal-fetal medicine. The team is keeping up to date on the latest Zika developments from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Doctors have also begun testing expectant mothers at risk who recently traveled to Zika-affected areas, which currently include the Caribbean, Central and South America.
A Warning for Expectant Mothers
Dr. Prieto and other experts warn that woman who are pregnant should consider postponing travel to Zika-affected countries. Those who do travel and are expecting should be evaluated and report any unusual symptoms to their health care provider. Symptoms may be mild, but could include:
- Joint pain
While there are no known cases of Zika infections acquired in the U.S., experts warn it could affect the states along the Gulf Coast. In addition to avoiding travel to Zika-affected areas, pregnant woman can protect themselves from mosquitos by:
- Wearing long-sleeves/pants
- Staying indoors
- Applying bug spray with DEET or permethrin
- Using window screens or mosquito netting
- Removing standing water in yard
Learn more about the Zika Virus from Johns Hopkins Medicine