Q: I recently found out I’m pregnant and am nervous about contracting Zika virus.What can I do to protect my baby on the way?
A: Zika is a virus spread by the bite of an Aedes species mosquito that has the virus. Pregnant women can also get Zika through any kind of sex with a person who has the virus. Expectant women with Zika virus during pregnancy might have babies with small heads (microcephaly) and other changes in the brain, which can cause lifelong problems.
- Do not travel to areas that have Zika virus.
If you live in or visit areas where there is Zika:
- Use EPA-registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol. Follow the package directions on how often to apply.
- Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts.
- Spray your clothes, as well as your exposed skin, with repellent. If using sunscreen, apply it before the repellent.
- Use a mosquito net while sleeping.
- Use condoms correctly and consistently during the pregnancy, or avoid having sex.
- Remove all standing water inside and outside your home. (These mosquitoes prefer to live indoors.)
- Clean or get rid of things where mosquitoes can breed, like buckets and old tires. (If you collect rainwater, make sure the container has a lid, and keep the lid tight. If the container does not have a lid, cover it with wire mesh that has holes small enough to keep mosquitoes out.)
If you are exposed to Zika, contact your health care provider for testing, diagnosis and follow-up.
—Tania J. Tetz, MPH, CHES, teratogen information specialist at MotherToBaby
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides Zika resources on its website (cdc.gov/zika/ pregnancy), including additional information about how MotherToBaby assists pregnant women who have questions. You can call MotherToBaby, a service of the nonprofit Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS), directly at 866/626-6847. Spanish-speaking specialists are available.