What expectant mothers should know about Zika

With the first case of Zika confirmed in Michigan, many questions will be asked about how this virus can affect us, especially expectant mothers, as Zika has been connected to birth defects overseas.

The Zika fever, caused by the Zika virus, is spread primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito, but it is also known now that the virus can also be sexually transmitted. While many infected don't show symptoms, those who do exhibit symptoms experience fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes).

While the symptoms are not known to be life threatening, the virus is especially a concern for pregnant women.

"The Zika virus can be passed from mother to fetus and has been linked to serious birth defects," said Dr. Linda Karadsheh, D.O., F.A.C.O.O.G., an OB/GYN with McLaren Macomb-Clinton Township Women's Health. "Pregnant women in any trimester and couples actively trying to get pregnant should take extra precaution by avoiding travel to any infected territories."

Birth defects mainly include microcephaly "“ the baby's head and brain are smaller at birth, leading to lack of brain development.

The symptoms of virus generally last less than a week. There is currently no evidence that suggests future pregnancies will be affected once Zika has been cleared from a patient's system.

There is currently no vaccine for the Zika virus. If in or near an outbreak area, it is best to wear long sleeves and pants, use bug spray with DEET  and, when possible, stay indoors with air conditioning to prevent mosquitos from coming in.

"There is much that is still unknown, so the best thing anyone can do is to take every precaution," Dr. Karadsheh said. "It's best, if you have any questions at all about Zika, think you have been exposed or questions about health in general before and during pregnancy, to consult a physician."

Dr. Karadsheh advises patients to frequently check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for updates on all infected areas and strongly advises "“ as does the CDC "“ to avoid all travel to those areas while pregnant.