On July 6th, New Jersey Department of Health Deputy Commissioner and pediatrician, Dr. Arturo Brito, spoke to the mothers at our Visiting Nurse Association of Central Jersey Perth Amboy WIC location about the Zika virus. Cases of Zika first started to appear in the United States last year and since have been met with concern and confusion. Dr. Brito’s presentation is part of the Department of Health’s #ZapZika campaign launched in March to help educate the public with accurate Zika statistics and to provide information on how to prevent infection.

“While there is currently no local Zika transmission in the continental United States, the Department of Health’s biggest concern is for pregnant women who may acquire Zika from areas with ongoing transmission,” said Dr. Brito, “Travelers to impacted countries should protect themselves by using EPA-registered insect repellent, spending time indoors and staying informed about the virus. Pregnant women and those thinking about becoming pregnant should discuss travel plans with their partners and physicians.”

Dr. Brito urged any couples who recently traveled (or plan to travel) to Central or South America and who are planning to have children to wait. Women who have recently traveled to affected countries should wait at least 2 weeks before attempting to get pregnant. Since Zika stays in semen longer than blood, men who have recently traveled should wait about 6 months and during that time and prevent risk of transmission by using condoms.

Zika is spread primarily through infected mosquitoes, but can also be spread through sexual intercourse with someone who is infected. The symptoms are often mild and can include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes.) However, a pregnant woman can pass the virus to her fetus, causing severe birth defects. If you experience any of these symptoms after travel from Zika infected areas, it is advised to see a doctor immediately.

For more information about Zika visit the NJ Department of Health or CDC or contact VNA Health Group’s Children and Family Health Institute at 800-400-0981.