An estimated 1.65 million childbearing women could become infected with Zika virus, according to the latest research. The researchers in the U.S. and the U.K. found that across Latin America and the Caribbean over 90 million infections could result from the initial stages of the spread of Zika.
The estimates are based on the sum of thousands of localized projections of infected people within every five by five kilometer grid. The number of 1.65 million represents the upper limit estimate for the first wave of the epidemic.
Professor Andrew Tatem, a geographer and researcher, said, “It is difficult to accurately predict how many childbearing women may be at risk from Zika because a large proportion of cases show no symptoms. This largely invalidates methods based on case data and presents a formidable challenge for scientists trying to understand the likely impact of the disease on populations.”
The researchers took into account disease patterns in similar epidemics along with factors that affect the transmission of the virus, climate conditions, and virus incubation periods.
Professor Tatem concluded, “These projections are an important early contribution to global efforts to understand the scale of the Zika epidemic, and provide information about its possible magnitude to help allow for better planning for surveillance and outbreak response, both internationally and locally.”
Recommendations for pregnant women with possible Zika virus exposure
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend that pregnant women, or women looking to conceive, travel to countries with known Zika virus transmission. If a woman does require traveling to these areas, she must take the appropriate safety precautions to reduce her risk of mosquito bites.
This includes using repellents, wearing long sleeves and long pants, avoiding mosquito-breeding areas such as still water, and following any other local recommendations.
Additionally, a woman should avoid sexual intercourse for some time after visiting these countries, or if her partner has visited these countries. Using protection during sex is also crucial for averting possible Zika infection.
If a pregnant woman does begin to experience symptoms related to Zika virus, she should go see her doctor and get tested immediately.
Because there is no cure or treatment for Zika, the best line of defense is prevention of mosquito bites – for both men and women.
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