infection in pregnant women can cause severe birth defects in
their babies. So the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) recommends that all pregnant women avoid
traveling to areas where there is an outbreak of Zika virus.
current recommendation is men should not get a woman pregnant
for six months, after the man has traveled to a Zika area, and
women should not get pregnant for eight weeks, if they’ve
traveled to a Zika area," says infectious diseases
internist Dr. Mary Jo Kasten of the Mayo Clinic Travel Clinic.
adds, "If there is no way you can avoid traveling — you
just have to go there for whatever reason, and there’s a
chance of pregnancy in the future — then you just need to do
the very best you can to avoid getting bit by the
suggests using a repellent with deet. "My favorite is a
deet-containing insect spray, because you can spray that all
over your clothing, over your exposed skin, get some on your
hands, put it up around your face. Reapplying that about every
four to six hours. You can cover up with light, long-sleeved
clothing, and you use deet repellent on top of that." She
says you can also use clothing that’s been pretreated with
an insecticide called permethrin.
says she has female patients who ask if they’re at risk. She
says age is a strong factor. "If I had an adult patient
saying ‘I’m afraid to go to Brazil, because I might get
Zika’ but they’re a 50-year-old woman, and there’s no
chance of them getting pregnant, I would say, ‘You don’t
really need to worry.’ Your risk of getting something like
dengue or other things is much higher than getting sick from
some other mosquito-borne illness or other travel-related
problem than Zika," says Kasten. "However, if you
were a 24-year-old woman interested in getting pregnant in the
next six months, then Zika needs to really be on your radar,
and you should really reconsider."
adds, "It’s not transmitted as frequently through sex
as through mosquito bites, but we do want women who have a
partner who has traveled to Zika virus places to know that
they can potentially get Zika through sex."
the recommendation is if women travel to a Zika-endemic area,
they should not get pregnant for eight weeks. If their
partner, or any sex partner, has traveled to a Zika-endemic
area, it’s recommended the woman not get pregnant for six
months. Kasten says the couple should especially use condoms
(and other forms of birth control) to try to avoid pregnancy
and acquiring Zika from the male partner.
researchers work on a vaccine, Kasten says it appears they’re
making faster progress with Zika than with other vaccines.
"They’ve been working on dengue virus vaccines for
years and years, but it seems like they’re probably closer
to having a Zika virus vaccine that might be able to be
tested, as I understand it, than dengue virus vaccine."