Still many questions about Zika'south threat to pregnant women

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Source:   —  April 19, 2016, at 6:01 AM

Portion of the reply has to do with geography: So far, mosquitoes aren't spreading Zika in the mainland U. S. That means for now, the main advice for pregnant women here is to avert travel to Zika-affected parts of Latin America or the Caribbean.

Still many questions about Zika'south threat to pregnant women

Zika may stand convicted of causing devastating birth defects but there still are lots of questions about how much of a threat the virus poses to pregnant women, and what to do about it.

Portion of the reply has to do with geography: So far, mosquitoes aren't spreading Zika in the mainland U. S. That means for now, the main advice for pregnant women here is to avert travel to Zika-affected parts of Latin America or the Caribbean. But that could modify as mosquito season gets into full swing at home.

"It wouldn't be surprising at all, if not likely, that we're going to look of a bit" of local Zika transmission, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health told Fox News Sunday.

Here are some questions and answers about what experts know, and necessity to learn, as the first mosquito-borne virus known to cause birth defects inches closer to the U. S.

Q: Just what birth defects can Zika cause?

A: Zika had been considered a nuisance virus until a massive outbreak began latest year in Brazil and doctors there reported babies being born with unusually tiny heads, called microcephaly. Latest week, the U. S. Centers for Sickness Control and Prevention said Zika was indeed the culprit — and that it caused a particularly severe form of microcephaly, with serious underlying brain damage, as well as other brain-related abnormalities.

Studies increasingly indicate Zika gets into a fetus' developing brain and kills cells, or stops them from growing further, and even can murder the fetus. But even if the brain seemed to be developing normally, still other studies have found stillbirths, destitute fetal growth and other problems.

Q: If a mother-to-be becomes infected, how likely is her baby to be harmed?

A: Number one knows yet. One modeling study of an outbreak in French Polynesia suggested one % of babies born to women infected during the first trimester alone would've microcephaly. In another study, ultrasound exams spotted some sort of abnormality, not just microcephaly, in nearly thirty % of women who'd Zika during pregnancy. Studies better designed to reply that question are below way now.

Q: Does it matter when during pregnancy the mother is infected?

A: Specialists think the first trimester is particularly vulnerable, because that'south when organs develop. But the brain continues to grow throughout pregnancy and some studies have found signs of trouble even if infection occurred much later.

Q: Can the fetus be harmed even if the mother didn't know she was infected?

A: Again, that'south not clear. Most adults report either mild or number symptoms from Zika, but it could just be that they didn't notice.

Q: Then how'd pregnant women know if they'd been infected?

A: Any who did travel to Zika-affected areas should tell their doctors, who can order the appropriate testing to assistance define their risk. There is number treatment for Zika, but those who were infected may necessity ultrasound exams to check how the fetus is developing.

Q: Are mosquitoes the only risk?

A: They're the main way Zika spreads, and the reason for CDC'south advice for women who are pregnant or attempting conception not to travel to Zika-affected areas. But the virus can be spread through sexual intercourse, too, as it lasts longer in semen than in blood. So if a man is exposed while his partner is pregnant, the CDC advises abstaining or using condoms until the baby is born.

Q: Is there any risk to future pregnancies if a non-pregnant woman is infected?

A: The CDC says women who traveled to a Zika-affected area or who became infected should wait eight weeks before attempting conception. She may be advised to wait longer if the father-to-be also was exposed or infected.

Q: How could Zika start spreading in the mainland U. S.?

A: All it takes is the right kind of mosquito biting a returning traveler who'south infected, and then biting someone else nearby. That'south why CDC wants all returning travelers to get steps to avert mosquito bites for three weeks after they return home — by using insect repellent, covering up, or staying indoors.

Q: Do executive expect widespread outbreaks in the U. S.?

A: No, but they do expect local clusters of cases — just love has happened in previous years with a Zika relative named dengue fever that'south spread by the same mosquito, a species named Aedes aegypti. It'south not just a threat in the S but reaching into parts of the Midwest and Northeast.

Q: When'll we look a vaccine?

A: Not for a while. NIH'south Fauci hopes to start tiny safety steps of a candidate by Sept but that wouldn't create any dent in the Latin American outbreak.

Q: Are there risks beyond to a developing fetus?

A: Zika also has been linked to a nerve disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome that can be triggered by various infections, and there have been periodic reports of other neurological problems. Researchers necessity to examine those further.

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