It’s been more than a year since the Zika virus, which can cause severe birth defects when passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus, began spreading. There is still no vaccine to prevent Zika or medicine to treat Zika, but there are ways to protect yourself:
Avoid mosquitos. Zika primarily spreads through infected mosquitoes. The best way to prevent Zika is to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
It’s a good idea to use insect repellent, but not just any insect repellent. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend using an EPA-registered insect repellent, meaning the product has been evaluated for effectiveness. Use this tool check if your insect repellent is EPA-registered.
Be sure that your home is protected from mosquitoes as well; holes in window screens should be repaired, and standing water in pots, birdbaths, buckets or any other items that hold water should regularly be dumped.
Avoid traveling to areas currently at risk of Zika. Whether you’re pregnant and planning a “babymoon” or planning to become pregnant, be aware of the areas currently at risk of Zika before you book your trip. Mosquito-borne Zika virus transmission has been reported in the U.S., including Texas and Florida. Zika is also present in popular travel destinations, such as Mexico, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica and more.
Women who have traveled to areas with Zika should wait eight weeks after the last possible exposure or after symptoms start before trying to conceive; Men should wait at least six months. During this waiting period, use condoms or do not have sex.
Use condoms. You can get Zika through sex without a condom with someone infected by Zika, even if that person does not show symptoms of Zika. Studies are underway to find out how long Zika stays in the semen and vaginal fluids of people who have Zika, and how long it can be passed to sex partners. We know that Zika can remain in semen longer than in other body fluids, including vaginal fluids, urine and blood. Condoms can reduce the chance of getting Zika from sex.
To learn more about Zika, visit the CDC’s website.