ALBANY, GA (WALB) - The Zika virus has been in the news a lot lately and doctors say pregnant women should be aware of their risks.
Over 150 pregnant women are infected with the Zika virus in the United States, the CDC reported last week.The spike came after a change in the way officials count infected women.
Most people who become infected with Zika fully recover after four to seven days of illness, but Zika presents additional risks for expecting moms. The virus can spread to their newborn, regardless of if the mom is symptomatic. Women infected early in pregnancy have as high as a 13% risk of giving birth to a child with microcephaly, or an abnormally small head, which can cause brain damage.
"The longer your fetus is affected, if you got bit the last week of pregnancy then it wouldn't have a lot of time to cause problems with your baby," said Dr. Bill Sewell, Director of Women's and Children's Services at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. "Nobody really knows what happens after you have the baby though so it's best to prevent it at any time."
He advises women who are pregnant to make it a priority not to get bit by a mosquito. The Aedes Aegyptis mosquito which carries the virus is already present in south Georgia, which Dr. Sewell says makes the spread of Zika highly likely.
"It should be noted that not everybody that contracts the Zika virus during pregnancy do these problems happen to their baby, but we don't know enough to predict who it will and who it won't affect," Dr. Sewell said.
With so many unknowns about the Zika virus, doctors advise women to take precautionary measures now.
"The unknowns probably make us hypervigilant, make us a little more concerned about it than maybe we need to be, but only time will tell," explained Dr. Sewell.
However, Dr. Sewell said that pregnant women, or any woman trying to get pregnant, should always wear an insect repellent containing DEET while outside. They should remove standing water in their yards and avoid being outside when possible.
Travel to high-risk countries or areas like Puerto Rico is also not recommended.
Until more is known about the Zika virus, Dr. Sewell also advises women to consider delaying pregnancy.