If you are trying to conceive, and concerned about Zika virus, here are the 10 most important things to know.

1. What is the Zika virus?

Zika is a virus contracted through a mosquito bite. The virus has a mild, even unnoticeable, impact on adults. However, it has severe consequences for pregnant women. If a woman who is pregnant or becomes pregnant after having come into contact with Zika it can cause severe birth defects. Aside from mosquito bites, Zika can also be spread through bodily fluids.

2. How can Someone get Zika?

There are two ways to get Zika: mosquito bite or through transmission of bodily fluid, such as blood, vaginal fluid, semen or urine.

3. How can I Avoid Zika?

Travel: Both men and women trying to conceive should avoid travel to all affected areas.

Mosquito bites: If you live in an affected area, or you cannot avoid traveling to an affected area, take every precaution to avoid mosquito bites.

  • Wear skin-covering layers, long pants, long sleeve shirts, hats, and socks.
  • Use bug spray
  • Avoid standing water
  • Remain indoors as much as possible, in places with air conditioning and intact window screen coverings.

Sex: Anyone who is trying to become pregnant or is already pregnant should avoid sexual intercourse, or any sexual activity, with someone who may have been exposed to the Zika virus. Exposure includes travel to Zika affected areas or having engaged in sexual activity with another partner who may have been infected. If having sex with someone who has been exposed, using a barrier method of birth control will help prevent the transmission of Zika to a fetus. Suggested barrier methods include condoms or dental dams.

Workplace: Men or women who work with bodily fluids should pay particular attention to safety precautions. Safeguards should be exercised in any profession that handles lab samples, as it is possible to contract the virus through exposure.

4. Where can I get Zika?

Active Zika virus has been found around the world. As of October 2016, Zika virus was present in Southern Florida and Puerto Rico, but no other areas of the United States. Additionally, the virus has been found in Mexico, and every country of Central and South America, including the Caribbean. The virus was located throughout the Asian Pacific countries, and was found in Singapore in South East Asia and Cape Verde in West Africa. The virus is projected to spread in the coming months.

5. What Happens if I Have Zika and Become Pregnant?

The Zika virus causes a condition in fetus’ called microcephaly. Microcephaly causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads and underdeveloped brains. A baby diagnosed with microcephaly would suffer from a range of health conditions, physical abnormalities, and cognitive disorders that may be fatal or exceptionally limiting. Additionally, Zika is linked to a series of other pregnancy related issues, including:
  • Birth defects
  • Miscarriage
  • Stillbirths

6. I, or my Partner, May Have Been Exposed to Zika. How Long Should we Delay Trying to Become Pregnant?

  • If a woman has been exposed to Zika, she should wait 8 weeks before attempting to become pregnant. Research has determined that the Zika virus impacts a woman’s reproductive system for several weeks. The advised wait time ensures the virus has cleared.
  • If a man has been exposed to Zika, he should wait 6 months before attempting to impregnate his partner. Studies have found that Zika survives in sperm for up to four months. A six-month wait is advised to insure the virus has passed.

7. How do I Know if I Have Zika? What are the Symptoms of Zika?

Most adults with Zika virus have mild or nonexistent symptoms. Nearly 80% of those infected have no signs of illness at all. If symptoms do appear, it is typically 2 to 7 days following exposure. Symptoms may last up to a week. Signs of Zika include:

  • Headache
  • Muscle soreness, joint soreness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Pink eye or eye pain

A health practitioner can perform a blood or urine test can to diagnose Zika. However, at this time, testing is only being recommended for people who exhibit symptoms within two weeks of Zika exposure.

8. Is There a Vaccine for Zika?

There is currently no vaccine for Zika.

9. How does Zika Affect Infertility Treatments?

As of October 2016, there have been no instances of Zika transmission through assisted reproductive technology (ART). However, it remains a technical possibility. All procedures involving donor sperm, eggs, and embryos should follow the FDA’s guidance for tissue donation standards to avoid transmitting the virus.

10. How do I stay up to date with Zika news and developments?

Zika is a relatively new health concern. The research process has just begun and is developing rapidly. Additionally, Zika is expected to spread, particularly as the seasons change. It is important that any person or couple having unprotected sex or preparing to conceive stay aware of Zika’s progressions. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is an international organization spearheading research and outreach. Use the CDC’s website to stay up to date on changes, progressions, or travel alerts.