What Parents Need To Know About The Zika Virus
Health & Safety

What Parents Need To Know About The Zika Virus

by Martha Scully

Zika is all over the news right now. You likely don’t know much about the virus other than visible birth defects in children. Especially if you are in your child birthing years you likely have concerns. Should you wait a few years to have a child? Should you not visit certain countries? Should you move to another part of the country? Who is likely to get the virus? How can you prevent yourself from getting it?

In this article, we’ll answer these questions and more, enabling future parents to understand the virus and protect themselves from it.

What is the Zika Virus?


The Wall Street Journal video above explains…

“It’s a tropical disease that’s spread through mosquito bites, about one-in-five people who are infected will develop symptoms like a fever rash or red eyes. It’s usually a mild
disease and rarely requires hospitalization, but it does cause a threat to pregnant women… Zika virus appears to have a particular ability to cause a birth defect when the baby is born to a mother that was infected during pregnancy. The birth defect called microcephaly causes babies to be born with undersized brains and skulls, a condition that can lead to serious development problems.”


What is Microcephaly?

In case you’re wondering what microcephaly is, you may have seen pictures or babies in person with abnormally small sized heads. Normal babies heads grow because of brain growth. Microcephaly prevents a brain from growing and contributes to a number of health problems, such as:

  • Seizures
  • Impaired learning
  • Balance problems
  • Problems swallowing
  • Hearing loss
  • Vision problems

In extreme cases, microcephaly can contribute to a miscarriage.

What Areas Have Been Affected by Zika?

The CDC keeps an updated page on the U.S. and international regions with reported cases of Zika.

How is the Zika Virus Spread?

Individuals who travel to locations where there has been an outbreak, risk exposure. Even if you don’t get bit by a mosquito carrying the virus, sexual intercourse with a person who has the virus can put you at risk.

In this CDC video, Dr. Valayudhan discusses the Zika mosquito its traits…

“This mosquito prefers to breed in and around your house… a very well adapted mosquito to an urban environment. It breeds in and around your house, it breeds in empty plots, it breeds wherever there is a small quantity of stagnant water. The most important breeding sights are, of course, drums, used tires, bottles… which gathers water during rain. The mosquitos lay eggs, about 200 of them, once in three days… the adult mosquito prefers to bite more people, instead of a single individual… this mosquito is active when we are active…”

How to Protect Yourself from Zika

There is no vaccine to treat the virus. Mosquito bites are the main contributor and in order to prevent the virus, you need to understand the insect that carries the virus. Once you understand the mosquito and its habitat, you can take measures to protect yourself.

When in areas where Zika has been reported:

  • Use insect repellent even indoors
  • Wear pants and long sleeves
  • Stay in places that have screens on windows and doors
  • Ensure there are no breeding sites nearby (no standing water for mosquitoes to lay eggs in)

Recommendations

Aside from the prevention measures mentioned, the safest thing to do is avoid going to locations that have the virus, especially if you’re pregnant or have a partner that plans on having a child. The virus has encouraged many to delay pregnancy unless they’re certain they’re living in a place where they won’t be contaminated.


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About the Author
Martha Scully
Martha is the founder of CanadianNanny.ca. Martha has been featured as a Child Care Expert in hundreds of publications across Canada including The Globe and Mail, CBC, Today's Parent and The National Post, She lives in British Columbia with her husband and two daughters.