Let’s get straight to it. You want to go on vacation. You want all the options. But your pesky great aunt is bringing up that “Z” word you thought disappeared with the pandemic. We’re breaking it down for you. Is Zika still a thing?
First things first, let’s get into what the Zika Virus is. The Zika virus originated in the forest in Uganda and emerged as a global concern in 2015 when it was associated with an increase in cases of microcephaly (that’s the condition where a baby’s head is significantly smaller than expected, often due to abnormal brain development) in newborns in Brazil. Zika spreads primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. However, it can also spread through sexual contact and from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Hence the purpose of this article.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of Zika virus cases peaked in 2016, with 750,000 reported cases worldwide. By 2019, this number had significantly decreased to just above 10,000 cases. Fast forward to today, in 2023, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that Zika virus transmission is at an all-time low.
But before heading to Delta and booking a trip to just anywhere, while this may seem reassuring, it doesn’t mean we should completely let our guard down. The possibility of contraction still exists, especially for those in or traveling to high-risk areas, including parts of Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Expecting mamas and those trying to conceive should remain vigilant and adhere to preventative measures to reduce the chance of infection.
Dr. Goje, an OB/GYN specializing in infectious diseases, explains, “There’s been a massive decrease in reported Zika transmission, but some countries are still at risk. There is currently no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika.” So stay cautious.
And for those trying to conceive, Dr. Goje suggests waiting for three months. “If a couple decides that they’re going to travel to a Zika destination, they will need to decide that they won’t try for pregnancy for the first three months that they’re back. This can mean abstaining from sex altogether or using contraception, like birth control or condoms.”
If you are heading somewhere with a higher Zika rate, there are some things you can do for prevention. Wearing proper insect repellent, covering exposed skin with long sleeves and pants, and sleeping indoors or in areas fully enclosed by screens or nets are great places to start.
So, is Zika something that should keep us awake at night? Based on current statistics and expert advice, the risk appears significantly less than it was a few years ago. However, prevention is always better than cure (to which there is none). If you’re planning a babymoon or a trip to a region with a history of Zika transmission, it’s a good idea to chat with your healthcare provider. They’ll help you understand the risks and preventive measures you can take to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy journey.