The Zika virus has been in the news a great deal lately, and for good reason.
Because of our work as a fertility center, it is vitally important to us that our patients know as much about Zika as possible so that they can take all the necessary steps to protect themselves as they grow their families.
Recommendations For Our Patients
For our patients, we strongly advise the following, based on recommendations from the World Health Organization, CDC and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).
- Travel to Zika affected areas is strongly discouraged for any patient and/or partner who may be attempting pregnancy.
- Male patients who have been exposed to Zika either through sexual activity or travel to an affected area are advised to wait six months after their last possible exposure before trying to conceive with their partner.
- Female patients who have been exposed to Zika either through sexual activity or travel to an affected area are advised to wait a minimum of eight weeks after their last possible exposure before trying to get pregnant.
- Any parties involved in third party reproduction such as sperm donors, egg donors or gestational carriers (GC) should also avoid these areas prior to donation. Any parties who have traveled to affected areas or been exposed through sexual contact may not donate or serve as a GC for six months after the last possible date of exposure.
Our In-Office Preventive Measures
- At OC Fertility, we take Zika seriously and are working within all recommended guidelines to protect the health and safety of our patients and their families.
- Because of this, our office staff must ask all patients about their recent travel activity. Please know that we are not attempting to invade your privacy, however, if a patient and/or partner has traveled to or lives in an affected area, the following question must be asked and documented:
Question: During the past 6 months, have you or your spouse/partner experienced any of the following: a fever accompanied by a rash, joint pain, muscle pain or eye infection (red eyes/conjunctivitis)?
- If there is any potential exposure, our office staff will need to notify the RN or doctor on duty for review and confirmation of next steps.
What is Zika?
Zika is a virus, spread initially by mosquitos. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis (red eyes) and in some cases muscle pain and headache.
Zika is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected.
In fact, only 1 in 5 infected patients have symptoms resulting from the Zika virus.
While the virus itself often has mild-to-no symptoms in patients who are infected, a Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly that is a sign of incomplete brain development. Doctors have also found other problems in pregnancies and among fetuses and infants infected with Zika virus before birth.
Because both men and women can contract and carry Zika without knowing it, it greatly increases the chances that they can carry the virus and then spread it to their sexual partners. This increases the potential risk to their future children.
What You Need to Know to Protect Yourself
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC):
“Many areas in the United States have the type of mosquitoes that can spread Zika virus. These mosquitoes are aggressive daytime biters and can also bite at night. Also, Zika can be passed through sex from a person who has Zika to his or her sex partners. If you are pregnant and have a partner who lives in (or has traveled to) an area with Zika, you should abstain from sex, or use condoms during your entire pregnancy.”
It is also important that our patients be aware of the following:
- There is currently no vaccine or medication or cure at this time.
- There is limited testing available through the Health Department or CDC.
- Testing through the local health departments is only available for pregnant women who have traveled to affected areas or patients that are currently symptomatic after travel to an affected area.
- Because the mosquitos that spread Zika virus are found throughout the tropics, outbreaks will likely continue.
- Testing MAY be available through a private laboratory (i.e. Labcorp or Quest) but may not be covered by insurance and is not perfect at detection.
This is a rapidly evolving issue, and all protocols are subject to change based on updates and information by the ASRM, CDC, FDA and our local health departments. Please know that we are taking all necessary measures to stay abreast of the latest information, and taking all the necessary steps to protect our patients and their families.
If you have questions about the Zika virus and fertility, or if you’d like to learn more about OC Fertility, contact us today or call us at (949) 706-2229.