Source: Six Degrees of Mom

By Dr. Neal Shipley

June 16, 2016

Expert Advice from Dr. Neal Shipley, Regional Medical Director, Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care

What we know about Zika
The most common way for people to contract Zika is through bug bites from infected mosquitos. Partners can also give one another Zika if intimately involved, so be sure to get a screening if a spouse or partner has recently traveled to a high-risk area. To date, there are no reports of infants contracting the Zika virus through breastfeeding. Because of the benefits of breastfeeding, mothers are encouraged to breastfeed even in areas where Zika virus is found.Most people who contract Zika virus do not show any out-of-the-ordinary symptoms and are unaware that they have been infected. Zika usually remains in the blood of an infected person for about a week to 10 days. Once a person has been infected, he or she is unlikely to get Zika again.

What we don’t yet know about Zika
There is no vaccine or medicine to effectively eliminate Zika and the medical community still has a lot of learning to do about the virus. Unfortunately, there are still many uncertainties in terms of exactly how and when the virus passes from mother to baby, its impact on the developing infant in the womb and long-term health outcomes for those who have been infected. We do not yet have statistics on how common it is for a pregnant woman who has contracted Zika to pass Zika on to her unborn baby or how common it is for a new mother to pass the virus on to her newborn baby at the time of delivery. We’re also not yet sure whether the severity of a woman’s symptoms will affect her pregnancy. Last, we’re still not sure what the long-term health outcomes are for infants and children who have contracted Zika.

What are the symptoms of Zika?
Most people who are infected with Zika do not even know they have the virus because they don’t have any symptoms or the symptoms are very mild. In other words, people usually don’t feel sick enough to go to the hospital when they first contract the virus. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes (conjunctivitis). Other common symptoms include headache and muscle pains. These symptoms usually go away within a few days to one week.

The exact incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) for Zika is not known, but we estimate that this is likely to be a few days to a week. See your doctor or other healthcare provider immediately if you are pregnant and develop a fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes within two weeks of traveling to a place where Zika has been reported.

What if I am pregnant or might get pregnant?
Zika can be passed from a woman to her unborn child during pregnancy or around the time of birth. Cases of pregnancy loss and other pregnancy-related complications have been reported in women infected with Zika during pregnancy.

Babies born to women infected with Zika during pregnancy have been reported to have birth defects as well as other problems. Recently, the CDC concluded that Zika virus infection during pregnancy is a cause of microcephaly – a birth defect which causes a baby’s head to be smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age.

Zika has been linked with other birth defects as well, including eye defects, hearing loss, and impaired growth. However, it is important to note that not all babies whose mothers had Zika during pregnancy are born with health problems. Women who are infected with Zika virus later during pregnancy, in the third trimester and around the time of birth, are less likely to have a baby born with microcephaly.

Are there risks for future pregnancies?
Based on the available evidence, the CDC does not think that women who contract Zika before becoming pregnant are at risk for future pregnancy complications, as long as the virus has cleared from the bloodstream before conception. Nor do they think that babies born to mothers who once had Zika are at risk for Zika-related birth defects. From what we know about similar infections, once a person has been infected with Zika, he or she will most likely be protected from a future Zika infection.

Do I have to worry about traveling in the U.S. this summer?
There have been no reported cases of anyone getting Zika from a mosquito in the U.S. (except Puerto Rico) but there have been cases which people who contracted the virus while traveling abroad came back to the New York City area with the virus. No local mosquito-borne Zika cases have yet been reported in U.S. However, given the recent outbreak of Zika, the number of Zika cases among travelers visiting or returning to the U.S. will likely increase. These imported cases could result in local spread of the virus in some areas of the U.S.

What can I do to protect my family against Zika?
Prevent mosquito bites.

What should I do if my child has symptoms?If your child has symptoms, take him or her to see a doctor or other healthcare provider.
If you or a loved one starts displaying Zika symptoms after traveling to an affected area, such as fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes please contact a health care provider immediately and describe where you have traveled. Fever (more than 100.4° F) in a baby less than 3 months old always requires evaluation by a medical professional. If your baby is less than 3 months old and has a fever, call your health care provider or immediately seek medical care.

The CDC provides updates on Zika regularly, as does the NYS Department of Health (DOH). Please check the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the DOH for more information. 
The DOH also has a Zika hotline: 1-888-364-4723, available Monday – Friday (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

About Dr. Neal Shipley
An emergency physician for more than 20 years, Dr. Shipley is board certified in Emergency Medicine and practices medicine in Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care centers. He has served as chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at New York City’s North General Hospital and the Jersey City Medical Center. He was assistant professor of Emergency Medicine at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine and director of quality and patient safety for the Department of Emergency Medicine at New York Presbyterian Hospital. He is a graduate of Princeton University and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. A father of three boys, Dr. Shipley understands the need for urgent care without the long wait and high cost of emergency rooms.

About Northwell Health-GoHealth
At Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care, we place the needs of our patients first – by providing an effortless patient experience, a welcoming culture of care and seamless integration with Northwell Health’s electronic medical records. Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care’s network has developed new urgent care centers across the greater New York area, spanning Long Island, Queens, Westchester, Staten Island and Manhattan. Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care network currently includes 23 centers, with plans to open 15 more by the end of 2016. The centers combine GoHealth Urgent Care’s award-winning and inviting facility design with Northwell Health’s best-in-class, quality providers. All of Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care’s centers operate seven days a week with extended evening hours and welcome walk-in patients, with the opportunity to “save your spot” by checking-in online. Each center features x-ray equipment and a lab, combined with an integrated electronic medical record system that can be accessed by caregivers across Northwell Health. To learn more, please visit: /northwell