By Andrew Schmertz
All pregnant women in the United States are now being urged to get tested for the Zika virus — whether or not they’ve been to an infected area. That warning follows ramped up concern as the mosquito-borne virus spreads.
At the maternity center at Saint Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick, pregnant women have heard the message.
“I’m using bug spray and my doctor told me that the Zika mosquitoes are out during the day but in New Jersey we shouldn’t be too concerned about it,” said Susan Lopez of South Amboy.
Lopez’s father lives in Miami — where more than a dozen people have been diagnosed with Zika.
While the virus is usually tame for adults, it can lead to devastating birth defects and brain deformities in unborn children.
Dr. Peter Wegner says New Jersey’s pediatric doctors and OBGYNs must be prepared because New Jersey may be closer to the danger zone than you think.
“A lot of people who are living here, you know, immigrants than, who come from countries where there is Zika transmission and you know they’re going to visit back and forth so the potential in New Jersey is, at least for travel associated, is certainly high,” Wegner said.
Pregnant women are being given what has been called an unprecedented warning. The CDC is advising them not to travel to areas where the virus is known to be present.
This year, Zika first appeared in Brazil where there is rising concern over the upcoming summer Olympics. Then it spread through South and Central America and most recently appeared in Puerto Rico and the Wynwood section of Miami.
“If you’re traveling, look at the area, ask if there is particular Zika transmission in the area and if there is, do everything you can to avoid mosquito bites,” Wegner said.
The CDC has the following recommendations.
Get tested if you’ve been to effected areas and are pregnant or thinking of getting pregnant.
Use condoms, since Zika can be sexually transmitted.
And if you are considering getting pregnant, talk with your health care provider first.
If you’re a woman who has had Zika, doctors say wait six weeks after symptoms end before you get pregnant.
For men, wait six months because the virus can stay in semen for a much longer time.
Even though it’s hot, the best advice may be to cover up and try to avoid the blood-sucking bugs the best you can.