CDC issues guidelines for pregnant women during Zika outbreak

20 Jan, 2016 3:25 pm

CHICAGO – The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday issued guidelines for doctors caring for pregnant women who might have been exposed to Zika virus, a mosquito-borne infection that can cause brain damage in a developing fetus.

The new guidelines, first reported by Reuters, lay out recommendations for doctors whose pregnant patients have traveled to areas with Zika virus transmission.

They follow a travel advisory issued by the CDC on Friday warning pregnant women to avoid travel to 14 countries and territories in the Caribbean and Latin America affected by the virus.

In Brazil, Zika has been linked to a rising number of cases of microcephaly, a condition associated with small head size and brain damage. Tourism officials in that country have tried to play down the risks as the country gears up for Carnivale and the 2016 Olympics, the first in South America.

On Saturday, health officials confirmed the birth of the first baby born with microcephaly in the United States attributed to the virus. The child was born in Hawaii to a mother who had become ill with Zika virus while living in Brazil last May.

There is no vaccine or treatment for Zika, which causes mild fever and rash. An estimated 80 percent of people infected with the virus have no symptoms at all, making it difficult for pregnant women to know whether they have been infected.

In its latest to doctors, the CDC urges providers to ask pregnant women about their travel history. Women who have traveled to regions in which Zika is active and who report symptoms during or within two weeks of travel should be offered a test for Zika virus infection.

Those who test positive should be offered an ultrasound to check the fetus’s head size or check for calcium deposits in the brain, two indicators of microcephaly. These women should also be offered a test of their amniotic fluid called amniocentesis to confirm the presence of Zika virus.

Pregnant women who traveled in areas where Zika is active but have no clinical symptoms should also be offered an ultrasound, and women whose fetus shows signs of microcephaly should also be offered amniocentesis. Those with no positive findings should be offered frequent ultrasounds to check for changes in the baby’s head size. –Reuters

Must Watch