CDC issues Zika virus recommendations for pregnant women

Recommendations include testing in each trimester

MADISON, Wis. – The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention has issued new recommendations for pregnant women and women considering becoming pregnant who live in or are frequent visitors to areas with Zika virus transmission.

Those recommendations include testing women before they become pregnant to determine a baseline. The recommendations also call for screening pregnant women for risk of Zika exposure and symptoms. The CDC also recommends those women be tested at least once per trimester.

“I think it is better to get tested. Then we know what the status is before someone becomes pregnant,” said Dr. Kathleen Antony, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist with UW Health.

For pregnant women or women considering becoming pregnant in Wisconsin who do not travel to areas with Zika virus transmission risk is low.

“In Wisconsin, I think we can rest relatively well assured that Zika virus transmission is pretty unlikely,” Antony said.

The Zika virus is known to be transmitted by two different types of mosquitoes in the U.S. The Aedes Aegypti mosquito is the primary transmitter of Zika virus and is found in Southern states. The Aedes Albopictus, or Asian Tiger mosquito, is capable of transmitting Zika virus and is found in states as far north as Minnesota.

“There hasn’t been Aedes Albopictus in the state of Wisconsin in the last 21 years.  That said, I know that surveillance is going to increase to look for that mosquito,” Antony said.

Leading the effort to increase mosquito surveillance in the upper Midwest is Dr. Susan Paskewitz, the chair of the University of Wisconsin-Madison entomology department. The CDC has awarded a $10 million grant to establish a center of excellence for vector-borne disease in the upper Midwest.

The center will help to coordinate research, surveillance and control in this region.

“One of the useful things for the new center for excellence for vector-borne disease is a lot of communication that’s been started among states. So we have a much better sense now of how Minnesota had found the Aedes Albopictus multiple times,” Paskewitz said.

That information will help to improve the surveillance moving forward.

“This year we’re going to look again and we’re going to look in a much more targeted way,” Paskewitz said.

The presence of the Aedes Albopictus in Minnesota and Illinois, along with a warming climate, is cause for a coordinated surveillance program.

“We can look at last year and say, ‘we didn’t find any Aedes Albopictus, no Asian Tiger mosquitoes in Wisconsin,’ but we don’t know what that’s going to look like this year.  And we also don’t know what that’s going to look like as we see the continuing warming of the climate.  We’re definitely watching the mosquito kind of crawl up in the United States,” Paskewitz said.

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