All you need to know about Zika

A simple illustration to show how Zika spreads in the community, plus how to protect yourself and your family!

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If you’re trying for a baby, you might want to put those plans on hold for the time being. Notes SmartParents expert Dr Christopher Chong, an obstetrician gynaecologist at Gleneagles Hospital, “Unless there are special reasons, pregnancy should be postponed till the (Zika) problem is well under control.”

            As for expectant mums who fear contracting the dreaded mosquito-borne illness, Dr Chong advises:
* Refrain from travelling to affected areas.
* Avoid intercourse if your husband is infected, or use condoms.
* Take precautions against getting mosquito bites.

            Says Ng Ziwei, 32, who is 20 weeks pregnant with her first child, "Of course it is quite scary, mostly older folks have been warning me to stay safe and stay away from the hotspot areas. I've bought mosquito patches, too!"

            Preventive measures you can take include applying repellent before you step out, reducing the area of skin you expose and cutting down on unnecessary outdoor activities — so, all that Pokémon hunting can wait! A Zika infection may be hard to detect as most of those infected show no symptoms. And even if they do ― possibly one in four or five people ― Dr Chong says that these symptoms are similar to a viral infection — fever, rashes, joint/bone aches, conjunctivitis (red eyes) and flu-like symptoms.

            In pregnant women, the Zika virus has been known to cause microcephaly, a birth defect where an infant’s head is significantly smaller than those of normal babies. Microcephaly is also linked to mental retardation, poor growth, poor feeding and seizures, notes Dr Chong.

           One woman has decided to take her chances and try for her third child. Says Joanna Goy, 30, "Initially, out thoughts were 'no babies!' But after much consideration, we decided we would still go ahead and try for a baby. After all, Zika will probably go on in the long term...and unless we have a confirmed date of a vaccine, how long would we have to wait?"

            If you are pregnant and suspect that you might be infected, stay calm and seek medical attention immediately. Your blood and urine will be tested for the virus. A blood test for Zika takes five to seven days. Noting that tests on the foetus are often too invasive and carry the risk of miscarriage, Dr Chong stresses that your Zika infection does not automatically mean your child is infected or will have microcephaly.  

            Besides a pregnant woman passing the Zika virus to her foetus during pregnancy, the virus is spread mainly by the bite of an infected Aedes female mosquito, which is most active in the morning, two hours after sunrise, and evenings, a couple of hours before sunset! A female Aedes mosquito lays about 100 eggs at a go and it only takes about six days for the egg to become another winged adult. This is why it is extremely important that we keep our homes — and our neighbourhoods — mozzie-free by doing the Mozzie Wipeout!


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Dr Christopher Chong is an obstetrician gynaecologist at Gleneagles Hospital.

Infographic by Lim Jae-Lynn
Illustrations by iStock

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