Zika Virus Still a Concern

NEPA doctor urges extra awareness for pregnant women

By: Mark Hiller


WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The Zika Virus may not be getting the headlines of a year ago, but if you think it’s no longer a concern — think again. A local doctor wants to raise awareness about the Zika threat — especially for expectant moms.

The Zika Virus is generally considered a mild illness most often spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. But as we’ve learned, if a pregnant woman gets the virus, it could have devastating consequences for her unborn child.

Things are about to get a little more crowded in Heidi Stempien’s home. “We’re just trying to make room now and prepare our two-year-old for what’s coming because he’s not going to be the only child anymore.”

With the Ricketts Glen woman’s second child due in December, she has a concern now she didn’t have with her previous pregnancy. “After I had him it started to come around.”

“It” is the Zika virus. Pregnant women infected with it have a greater risk of babies born with serious birth defects. Zika is linked to two particular types of infected mosquitoes. “Neither one of those mosquitoes are prevalent in northeastern Pennsylvania. So in that sense, people who live in this area really are at minimal risk of Zika exposure,” said Commonwealth Health Gynecologist Mike Tedesco who added that doesn’t mean to let down your guard. “Because we’re not bombarded daily about Zika virus, I think there’s this complacency about, well I don’t have to worry about it but they do need to worry about it.”

For starters, consider where you’re traveling. You’re more likely to encounter a Zika-infected mosquito domestically in places like Florida and Texas where there’ve been confirmed cases this year. The Centers For Disease Control has issued travel notices for regions like South America, Central America and the Caribbean.

Dr. Tedesco says it isn’t just women like Heidi who are currently pregnant who need to be concerned about Zika. Even if you’re planning a pregnancy, you need to take precautions. That means delaying getting pregnant if you’ve traveled to Zika-affected areas. “We want at least eight weeks of not becoming pregnant before trying and for the partner we would suggest six months,” said Dr. Tedesco

It’s important to note the Zika Virus can be spread through sexual contact if your partner is infected. Dr. Tedesco recommends pregnant women avoid sex if that’s the case. Click here to learn more about protecting yourself from the Zika Virus.

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