Most of you have probably either heard the term “Zika”, or have seen images of young children affected by it on your Facebook feed. With a growing number of known Zika cases in Singapore, many of you are probably in a frenzy worrying about getting infected, or wondering how it could affect you.
First things first, who is most at risk and who should be most concerned?
The ones most at risk of the devastating effects of the Zika virus are unborn children – children developing inside their mothers’ wombs. Which means the ones who should be most concerned about getting infected are women who are either pregnant or hoping to be pregnant.
Now that I’ve gotten your attention…
What is the Zika virus?
Basically, the Zika virus is a mosquito-borne virus. Its effects are devastating for unborn children at all stages of the pregnancy, and has been linked with brain defects in newborn children. The most common brain defect is a severe form of microcephaly (‘abnormally small head’), where it’s also accompanied by brain damage.
Some of the effects of the Zika virus on the developing fetus include a brain that develops without its normal indentations, damage to nerves that connect vital organs including the eyes and ears to the brain, children who suffer seizures, etc. And the worst part? There’s no treatment for such damage – what a nightmare.
While not all infected pregnant women give birth to babies with brain defects, once a mother is infected, there’s absolutely nothing that can be done to prevent the virus’ effect on the unborn child. As such, it’s incredibly important that pregnant women do whatever they can to ensure they do not get infected.
How does the Zika virus affect adults?
The virus doesn’t affect adults nearly as badly, and an infected adult might experience symptoms such as fever, itchy rash, body aches, headache, red eyes, and occasionally, nausea and vomiting.
Many infected adults don’t develop any symptoms, and that’s also where the danger lies – the virus is then free to spread invisibly from these carriers.
The Zika virus is transmitted via mosquitoes and sexually
The Zika virus is primarily transmitted via mosquitoes, specifically, the Aedes mosquitoes. However, it can also be transmitted sexually, via vaginal, anal and possibly even oral sex – basically, by contact with semen carrying the virus.
Sexual transmission can occur from men to woman or from men to men; women, on the other hand, do not transmit the virus to anyone else.
What kinds of precautions can pregnant women take?
For women who are not pregnant and who do not intend to get pregnant:
Make sure you faithfully use your contraceptives to keep from pregnant. If you don’t get pregnant, you won’t have to worry about the effects of the virus on an unborn child.
For women who are pregnant:
To prevent transmission via mosquitoes, you’ll want to expose as little skin as possible by wearing long-sleeved tops and long pants, and by using mosquito repellent if you’re the kind of girl mosquitoes love.
Because many people infected with the Zika virus do not show symptoms and yet are infectious, your partner may be infected without both yours and his knowledge. To prevent sexual transmission of the Zika virus, you want to either abstain from sex entirely until the child is born, or have sex with a condom – the only form of contraceptive that works for women with child is a Durex rubber, so run out and stock up on a few packs if you want to stay sexually active while pregnant. This will give you a peace of mind knowing your child will develop in a normal, healthy manner.
If you’re an expecting mother, you’ll want to take every precaution possible to ensure your child develops healthily, and sometimes, that can be as simple as working an effective contraceptive into your sexual habits – at least until this Zika business blows over. With the number of known infections on the rise, and especially because it can be transmitted by those pesky, ever-present mosquitoes, you can never be too sure who is infected and who isn’t.
So, pregnant women especially, make sure your partner puts on a rubber and you’ll both be able to go on with your sex life as per usual without fear that by doing the deed, you’ll be harming the little bun in the oven.