By Dr. Lisa Masterson
Last summer, the Zika virus received a lot over media coverage, which has all but stopped. Yet that doesn't mean the virus has gone away and women aren't still at risk. In fact, Brownsville, Texas, was added to the Zika travel guidance as a place to avoid in late October 2016. As late as February 2017, there have been 30 reported cases of Zika in 11 states.
Here is what you need to know about Zika to keep you and your family safe:
* The virus is spread by mosquito bites. It enters the bloodstream of the infected person and can be transmitted through sex, even if the infected person does not have symptoms. In fact, 80% of infected people do not show symptoms. Zika symptoms include fever, a rash, conjunctivitis (red, inflamed eyes), and pain in the joints.
* The virus can be transmitted from mother to fetus and can cause birth defects. If you are pregnant, do not travel to areas with Zika. This includes Brownsville, Texas, south Florida, and many areas in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.
If you do travel to a country that has a Zika travel alert, be sure to take these precautions:
* Prevent mosquito bites by using an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved insect repellent. EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
* Applying insect repellent on you and your children is not complicated, but before you do, be sure to pay close attention to the label for any warnings. All insect repellents, including products combined with sunscreen, should be used according to instructions on the label.
* Insect repellents can be used in all ages unless it is otherwise stated on the label. As long as you read and follow label directions and take proper precautions, insect repellents with active ingredients registered by the EPA do not present health or safety concerns.
* Keep mosquitoes outside by staying in places with air conditioning and with window/door screens.
* Protect yourself during sex. Women: consider using condoms or abstaining from sex for at least eight weeks after travel (if you don't have symptoms) or for at least eight weeks from the start of symptoms (or Zika diagnosis) if you develop Zika.
Finally, avoid areas where there is standing water because they attract mosquitoes.
For more tips on Zika, refer to the Centers for Disease Control's Zika Resource website.
Dr. Lisa Masterson M.D. is a specialist in obstetrics, gynecology, infertility, adolescent gynecology, and family planning. She is also the Emmy-nominated co-host of the syndicated daytime medical talk show, The Doctors. At healthinheelswithdrlisa.com she shares information about health, wellness, parenting, and more.