Every few weeks there seems to be a new update on the Zika virus, but the news shared always seems to apply to a national level.  This makes it difficult for local couples to determine what steps or alterations need to be made in their family planning if vacations are in the near future.  I sat down with Dr. Elina Pfaffenbach, of Women’s Health Specialists in the Fox Valley, to learn more about the specific factors that merit consideration by couples in the area who are either planning to conceive or are currently pregnant.

“The Zika virus is transmitted through mosquitos in areas with ongoing Zika transmission or through sexual intercourse with an affected partner,” says Dr. Pfaffenbach, “On a local level, these are the four things you need to know as of now:

  1. Pregnant women, in any trimester, should postpone traveling to areas with ongoing Zika transmission until their baby is born.  I would even be cautious about coastal destinations in the U.S. since this is an evolving concern.
  2. Couples that want to conceive should stop trying while traveling to an area with ongoing Zika transmission, and use contraceptives and bug repellent techniques. Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents which, when used as directed, are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women (including those with DEET).
  3. Once you return, wait 8 weeks before trying to conceive – assuming neither of you are showing any symptoms.  Symptoms, when present, are typically mild; the most common are sudden onset of fever, rash, muscle aches and conjunctivitis.
  4. There has been one confirmed case of the Zika virus in Wisconsin, however there have been zero locally transmitted cases. In the one confirmed case the woman had traveled to Honduras.

At the end of the day, this virus really isn’t something you want to chance as the risks to your baby can be devastating.  If that means changing your family planning goals or travel plans, then studies show us that it’s worth it,” says Dr. Pfaffenbach.  “The list of potential health problems for infants associated with the Zika virus seems to keep growing and so far includes pregnancy loss, microcephaly, eye defects, hearing loss and impaired growth.  Being a parent is one of the most selfless roles you can take on and with the current risks, that may mean your short term plans need to be altered.”