Zika virus is spreading throughout South America the Caribbean and while symptoms of those infected are typically limited to a mild fever and red eyes, pregnant women have been urged to be particularly careful in areas where Zika has been detected. As the numbers of cases of those infected with Zika continues to rise so does the number of babies born with a particular birth defect, Guillain-Barré syndrome, which causes babies to be born with small heads and brains and suffer serious developmental impairment. Since the risks for this terrible birth defect are thought to be so high, and it would seem logical to wait after returning, how soon after traveling can you get pregnant?
It's probably worth noting that no definitive link between Zika infection and this birth defect, also called microcephaly, have been found, but doctors are seeing a strong correlation between the two. But a recent study in Brazil found about 30 percent of pregnant women infected by Zika showed an abnormality in their fetuses through an ultrasound.
So if you're interested in becoming pregnant, how long should you wait if you're recently traveled to an area infected with the Zika virus? Officials say women who travel to zones where Zika has been detected should wait at least 28 days to get pregnant to ensure the virus has time to leave the blood stream. If a woman has traveled to a Zika zone, contracts the virus and has symptoms within two weeks of returning back home, health officials say they should wait for at least six months before getting pregnant.
The latest Zika travel notices from the Centers For Disease Control include areas of Central America, Mexico, South America, the Carribbean and Brazil, including Rio de Janiero, the site of the upcoming 2016 summer Olympics.
Zika is known to be spread two ways: by mosquito and through sex. If you or your partner has been in a Zika zone, use a condom for protection during intercourse for 28 days after traveling to an area with the Zika virus. If you are a pregnant woman with a partner who has been to a Zika zone, doctors recommend you protect yourself with condoms for the duration of your pregnancy. If you are traveling to a Zika zone use insect repellent, mosquito nets and cover up with clothing to keep from getting bitten by mosquitoes and contracting the Zika virus.
In the meantime the hunt for a Zika vaccine is on, but not expected to be available anytime soon. So anyone planning on becoming pregnant might just want to indefinitely postpone any travel to Zika impacted areas until further notice.