An expecting parent’s number one wish is for a happy, healthy baby.
National news coverage of the Zika virus has sparked concern amongst parents,
though, mostly due to a fear of the unknown.
As mosquitos – which are blamed for spreading the virus in Central
and South America – begin to breed and bite close to home, experts
at Iredell Health System are offering advice to help expectant parents
and their families avoid contracting Zika, which can cause severe birth
defects in unborn babies.
For many adults and children, the symptoms of a Zika infection are usually
mild and can include fever, rash and joint pain – or they may have
no symptoms at all. Pregnant women infected with Zika may also have similar
or no symptoms. Although the virus may not be transmitted to the fetus
of every pregnant woman infected with Zika, there is a potential risk
that the virus will be passed on to their unborn children, causing a birth
defect called microcephaly. The condition causes babies to be born with
unusually small heads and brains, often leading to intellectual disabilities
and seizures. Some of the children born with those conditions will require
intensive care for the rest of their lives.
So far this year, the Centers for Disease Control has confirmed more than
1,200 cases of Zika in the United States, but none of those people were
infected in the U.S. Instead, they were likely bitten by a mosquito carrying
the virus while traveling outside the country. That does not mean Iredell
County residents are completely safe from Zika, though.
“An outbreak is possible in North Carolina as the number of Zika
cases increase,” said Pam Gill, Director of Infection Prevention
at Iredell Memorial Hospital, part of Iredell Health System.
As a result, Iredell Health System is taking a proactive approach to screen
pregnant patients for Zika. Gill said Iredell Memorial Hospital and physicians
that are part of Iredell Health System are following state guidelines
for surveillance and reporting. That means pregnant women can expect questions
from their doctor or nurse about their recent travel and how they are
feeling. Women who have been in countries where Zika is widespread and
are experiencing symptoms may go through additional screening.
There are a number of things that can be done to protect an individual’s
health and reduce the chances of a Zika infection. According to Gill,
people should think carefully about where they travel this summer. The
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports active transmission in more
than 40 countries and territories. The list includes vacation hotspots
like Jamaica, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. The CDC recommends pregnant
women postpone travel to areas where Zika is spreading. And, Gill said,
the virus can also be spread through sexual contact, not just a mosquito
bite, so if someone’s partner has traveled to areas of concern,
there is a potential they could transmit Zika.
Gill also had advice for avoiding mosquito bites and preventing a Zika
infection. Empty or turn over items that hold water outside of your home
and make sure pools have the proper chlorination. Bug sprays can also
be effective if used correctly.
“Use EPA approved insect repellent when outside,” said Gill,
“and follow label directions and precautions, especially for babies
For more information, please contact LaToya Boyce at 704.878.7738.