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Understand Your Baby’s Risk from Zika Virus


The Zika virus causes microcephaly, a condition where a baby’s brain and skull stop growing in the womb or a few years after birth. Microcephaly can result in developmental delays, seizures, poor coordination, cognitive impairments, and impaired motor function. If a woman is infected with the Zika virus while she is pregnant, it can cause this type brain damage and abnormal brain development in her unborn baby. The Zika virus is most frequently transmitted by mosquito bites and sexual contact.

At Dignity Health, our labor and delivery experts want to make sure you and your family experience a healthy and happy beginning for a lifetime of memories. Our team is dedicated to providing the highest quality care for fetal conditions like the Zika virus. If you've been exposed to the Zika virus during your pregnancy, Find a Doctor in the Bay Area that’s right for you and your baby.

What Causes Zika Virus?

Most cases of Zika virus are transmitted by a mosquito bite. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) keeps a list of countries where mosquitoes are currently transmitting Zika infection.

The Zika virus can also be passed along by sexual contact. Both men and women have developed Zika infections after having sex with a partner who was infected by a mosquito bite.

A pregnant woman can also transmit the Zika virus to her unborn child.

Zika Virus Symptoms

Only about one in five people with the Zika virus experience symptoms. Whey they do occur, symptoms include:

  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Fever
  • Red, inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis)
  • Headache
  • Rash

No one yet knows how common Zika infections are in babies whose mothers contract the Zika virus during pregnancy. Some babies may not experience any symptoms.

Zika Virus Treatment & Prevention

There is no cure or vaccine to prevent Zika virus infection. Doctors are actively working on new treatments and preventative measures.

To the best way to prevent Zika virus and Zika-related microcephaly is to avoid exposure to mosquitoes that may be carrying the virus. Doctors recommend that pregnant women and women of childbearing age avoid areas where mosquitoes are actively spreading Zika. If you live in one of these locations or if travel to one of these areas is unavoidable, these steps can help you reduce the risk of mosquito bites: 

  • Use DEET-containing bug spray.
  • Wear long pants and sleeves.
  • Choose clothing treated with an insecticide such as permethrin.
  • Stay in buildings with window screens and air conditioning. 

Because Zika can be transmitted sexually, pregnant women should use condoms during all sexual activity for the duration of their pregnancy if their partners have traveled to Zika-affected areas.

If you experience any symptoms of Zika virus, let your doctor know as soon as possible to assess your baby’s risk.

Dignity Health provides treatment to mothers and babies at risk of complications due to the Zika virus in the Bay Area, including Santa Cruz and Redwood City.