Local doctor weighs in on Zika: “Best way to prevent it is to avoid exposure”

Posted at 9:49 AM, Aug 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-16 13:54:05-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Last week, health officials confirmed another Zika virus case,  this time, in Southeast Michigan. So far, doctors say there are no confirmed Zika cases in West Michigan But the Zika virus is causing alarm among pregnant women across the country and in our state.

Local doctors say Michigan will likely dodge a Zika outbreak due to our colder climate, but they are warning pregnant women and women trying to get pregnant to avoid traveling to warmer countries or states.

Source: March of Dimes

"This is real. It’s effecting many kids," Vivian Romero said, a maternal and fetal medicine specialist at Spectrum Health."If you look at the news and you see the struggle Brazil is going through right now, there's 3,500 cases of microcephaly and this is devastating, because it's a long term disease that’s going to carry significant effects on that population."

Microcephaly is the condition where babies are with brain related defects and abnormally small heads. Pregnant women become infected from mosquitoes test positive for West Nile carrying Zika and pass the virus to their unborn babies. The virus can also be transmitted sexually.

"I don’t believe we’ve seen anything quite this frightening for our babies and birth defects until Zika," said Ginger Feldman, executive director at the March of Dimes in West Michigan.

Source: March of Dimes

Source: March of Dimes

"The best advice I have for people in Michigan is to be careful if you’re traveling to an area that has Zika virus," Dr. Romero said.

According to the CDC, last week there were nearly 2,000 Zika cases across the continental U.S., 20 of those in Michigan.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Thankfully, Michigan doesn't have the mosquito that carries the Zika virus. According to doctors, the cases in Michigan are cases where the victims became infected elsewhere or from sexual transmission.

Dr. Romero suggests exposed women wait eight weeks from first signs of symptoms until conceiving. Exposed men should wait six months, because the virus can be found in semen for longer periods of time.

Feldman says she's extremely concerned about mothers and their babies.

"Miscarriage, still birth and birth defects, premature birth -- all of those things are our mission, and Zika falls into the middle of that fire storm," Feldman said. "This is what all businesses need to be aware of. If they’re having conferences in any of those southern states, [they need to] be aware of it for their moms."

That's why March of Dimes is promoting five ways to Zap Zika. They urge pregnant women to use repellent with Deet, stay inside, remove standing water, use contraception, and call your health care provider immediately if you think you're at risk.

Source: March of Dimes

Source: March of Dimes

Symptoms of the Zika virus are typically mild, including fever, rash, joint pain, and itchy eyes. Many infected won't experience symptoms.

As of now, there is no cure, but doctors say research is being done to find a vaccination that works.

A blood or urine test can determine if you have Zika. Doctors recommend that pregnant women who might have been exposed to the virus receive serial ultrasounds.

For more information on the Zika virus and how you can prevent it, head to Marchofdimes.orgor the CDC