You’ve probably heard about the Zika virus, but maybe you don’t know that much about how it might affect you as a parent.
Zika has been linked to disabilities and special health care needs in children born to mothers who were infected. If you’re worried about getting Zika, if you have Zika now, or had it while pregnant and now have a baby who might be affected, this page has important information.
We want you to know that you and your child can get support and good medical care.
We don’t know everything there is to know about Zika yet, but we do know a lot. Health leaders in Texas and across the world are working hard to learn the facts about Zika and to get the word out about its risks.
Most people who get the Zika virus will not get sick for long or have major health problems, so they might not even know they have it. But some people will get more serious conditions. There’s no medicine to treat Zika or vaccine to prevent it. The risks are most serious for pregnant women and their babies.
Zika is carried by a certain kind of mosquito and, if it bites you, you might get the virus. Zika is also passed from person to person through blood or other fluids. It can be transmitted sexually or from a mother to her baby during birth.
The best way to stay safe and healthy is to keep mosquitoes away, protect yourself from getting bitten, and be careful about where you or your partner travel. If you or your partner have traveled to a Zika-infected area, talk to your health care provider before trying to get pregnant -- you may have to wait weeks or even months. If you are pregnant, either abstain from sex or practice safe sex by using condoms.
While it might be hard to keep mosquitoes away, you can do things like wear bug spray, dump standing water out regularly, and get pest control treatment for areas that attract mosquitoes.
Here are places to find out more:
Most people have no symptoms or only have them for a few days, but some people can get more serious conditions. Zika symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (pink eye).
If you or your partner live in or have traveled to a place with Zika, have symptoms, or are just worried, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor. The doctor might use a blood or urine test to see if you have Zika. Pregnant women who live in an area with Zika or have other Zika risks or symptoms should get tested. Doctors will test their babies at birth too. If you test positive, the doctor can talk to you about next steps.
If you are (or were) infected with Zika while pregnant, your doctor probably told you that your baby might have a disability or special health care needs related to Zika, such as microcephaly. And you’re probably feeling scared, overwhelmed, guilty, and unsure of what to do next.
Here are some things you can do:
Don’t forget your own self-care too. By taking care of yourself first, you’re better able to take care of your family.
Many babies born to mothers with the Zika virus may not show symptoms right away. Some are born with disabilities, some show symptoms later, and some don’t seem to ever show them at all.
Zika might cause disabilities or special health care needs in children. Children that have one or more of the following conditions have something called Congenital Zika syndrome:
Some babies will have other disabilities or special health care needs, or develop them later on as they grow up. That’s why it is so important to keep in close touch with your baby’s doctor.
If you’re pregnant and have Zika, there are things you can do now to learn more and start to plan for the future.
You can ask the doctor:
It might be hard to take in all of these answers at once, so you might need to ask the doctor your questions again at another visit or read more about Zika when you’re feeling ready. And you can connect with other parents who have been affected by Zika to learn what you might expect.
If you had the Zika virus when pregnant, it’s important to let your child’s doctor know even if your baby has no related health conditions at birth. Just like you’ll be watching for your new baby’s gurgles, smiles, and yawns, you can watch to see if they’re meeting their developmental milestones too.
You can take care of your baby by going to all of their checkup visits with their regular doctor and any specialists that the doctor recommends. You can also still breastfeed your child (if that was your plan) even if you had or have Zika. When you see your child’s doctor, it’s a good time to ask questions or point out any issues you see.
Here are some important questions to ask your child’s doctor:
As a parent of a child with a disability or special health care needs related to Zika, you might need to see different types of health care providers or get different types of services. And you might not know exactly what you need yet or how to figure that out.
Here are some ideas on where to start:
The more you know about Zika, the better prepared you will be to take care of yourself and your child.
If you’re worried you might have the Zika virus, go see your doctor and get tested. If you had the Zika virus while pregnant, work with your child’s doctor to track their development.