Pregnancy is obviously a time when women can feel anxious about anything that could adversely affect the health and development of their unborn baby. Media reports such as those showing the spread and effects of Zika virus can, therefore, be another source of worry.
So, what is Zika Virus, and should it be cause for concern for pregnant women, and those women planning to have children here in the UK?
What is Zika Virus?
Zika virus is a disease that is primarily transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, and therefore is more likely to occur in area of the world where they can be found, such as in the Pacific region, South and Central America, the Caribbean and South East Asia.
People infected with the Zika virus can display relatively minor symptoms such as a mild fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise or headache. In some cases, Zika has also been linked with other neurological problems in sufferers.
The Zika virus can be passed from an infected mother to here foetus. The virus has been linked to birth defects such as Microcephaly. This is the abnormal smallness of the head that many of us have seen in news reports about the virus, and this condition can cause incomplete brain development.
Zika has also been linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome, where the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system.
Has It Spread to the UK?
The World Health Organisation says that it expects three to four million cases worldwide, although this number could increase as the virus spreads geographically (it has now spread through South America, and into the US).
- 265 cases of Zika virus have been diagnosed here in the UK from 2015 to November 2016, but only 181 of these were actually confirmed as being Zika (BMJ figures).
- Only 7 of the 265 cases in the UK have been diagnosed in pregnant women.
- One common factor of most of the 190 travellers infected with the virus is that they appear to have picked it up while travelling in the Caribbean.
Can It Be Sexually Transmitted?
Yes, but it is rare. Only approximately 60 cases of sexual transmission of Zika have been reported worldwide. In the UK, the first case of sexually transmitted Zika virus was detected in December 2016. The case involved a woman who was infected by her partner, who had been on holiday in an area where the virus was active. The woman has since made a full recovery.
Can It Be Cured and Is There a Test?
Yes, it can be cured. Although there is no vaccine or medicine for Zika yet, it is usually cleared / cured by the sufferer’s own immune system. Infection by Zika can be confirmed with a blood or urine test.
Health During Pregnancy and Childbirth
As a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist I offer a wide range of services for patients, including a comprehensive Antenatal package. This package allows you 24/7 care, and combines combine an orthodox practice with a genuinely holistic approach. For more information contact me via my contact page here or ring my personal assistant on 020 3318 0263.