Still Worried About Zika

While it might have been years since there were warnings about it in the news, many people around the world still face this risk, particularly those pregnant or aspiring to be pregnant.

Ob/Gyn Oluwatosin GOje, MD, a specialist on infectious diseases says it is not something that you should worry about. According to her, Zika in the U.S. is not an epidemic. "Zika transmission is not an epidemic in the U.S.," she confirms. In 2017, the last Zika cases were detected in Texas and Florida.

In the United States, there has been zero reports of Zika-virus transmission through mosquitoes. In addition, there has been no reported Zika virus infection from the United States territories since 2019.

The Zika virus is still prevalent in some parts of the globe. It is important to understand the Zika virus before you go on vacation, Dr. Goje says.

Although the Zika threat is now much less, it still exists. In 2015 and 2016, there was a Zika epidemic that put people on edge. It started in Brazil, and quickly spread to North and South America. Transmission was seen in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico, as well as the Virgin Islands.

The number of cases has dropped dramatically since then. No country is currently experiencing an active Zika virus outbreak as of 2022. But that doesn't necessarily mean it has vanished.

Dr. Goje stated that there's been a significant decrease in Zika transmission reported, however some countries still remain at risk. There is no current vaccine or treatment for Zika.

What's the Most At Risk for Zika Disease?

Aedes Aegypti (also called yellow fever mosquitoes) is the most common vector of Zika virus. These mosquitoes thrive in tropical climates.

This infection can be passed from one parent to another via sex. Other severe birth defects can result from infection during pregnancy.

Dr. Goje explains that Zika can cause birth defects in infants born to Zika parents. This is why it's important not to travel to Zika-affected regions.

Zika may cause birth defects such as brain damage or microcephaly. This is a condition where a baby's head grows smaller than normal. Zika can also increase the chance of:

Medical professionals advise caution when travelling to areas with Zika risk if you are pregnant, or trying to conceive.

Zika: Should you cancel your travel plans?

Dr. Goje advises that travelers check first the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's interactive Zika Map, which shows threat levels for different countries. The following categories are listed:

Current Zika epidemic areas. There are no currently active epidemics in any part of the globe. If there is, experts advise that people trying to conceive avoid these areas.

Zika cases in areas that were ever known to have occurred, both now and in the past.

Aedes Aegypti has been found in areas that have not yet reported Zika cases. According to the CDC, Zika is possible in areas that have Aedes aegypti moths. All of Canada and parts of Northern Africa are included. The CDC warns that Zika may be carried by other mosquitoes, which could mean these mosquitoes might also live in the affected areas. You can cancelling or postponing your trip to countries where Zika may be a concern is an individual and complicated decision.

Dr. Goje states, "You will need to think about your destination travel and take precautions." Your partner or doctor will need to know what you're thinking and they can help you make a decision.

Are There Any Precautions You Should Take to Protect Yourself from Zika Infection?

You should avoid getting bit if you travel to an area with Zika. You can also:

You should take extra precautions if you are concerned about getting pregnant.

"If a couple decides to travel to Zika destinations, they need to make a commitment that they won’t attempt to have a baby for three months." Dr. Goje says. It could be abstaining completely from having sex, or even using contraception such as condoms and birth control.

If you're not a part of a married couple, but have sexual activity, you can decide how long you need to abstain from contraception or when you use it. This will depend on the reproductive organs that you have.

Zika may be passed from a mother to her child if she was a girl at birth.

Zika is more likely to live in the semen of a male if it was assigned at birth.

Although doctors can treat Zika symptoms, there is no cure. Dr. Goje suggests that anyone who plans to travel abroad should learn how to prepare for the return trip and what they can do to help. Your best defenses are prevention and awareness.