It is a little over a year since my last blog on Zika in pregnancy. We have learnt a great deal about it since then. In April last year scientists concluded that Zika in pregnancy may cause microcephaly and other neurological problems including seizures, vision and hearing problems. It is the first virus to be noted to have harmful effects on the unborn baby since the realisation in the 1960s that rubella does. A recent study from America which followed pregnant women who had travelled to Zika risk areas found that overall abnormalities potentially caused by Zika were seen in 6% of the infants and foetuses. The rate was 11% among women exposed to Zika during the first third of the pregnancy but no cases were seen among those who were exposed in the second or third part of the pregnancy. (There were not many women in the study so we cannot assume exposure later in pregnancy is completely risk free.) It is important to note that some of the women with abnormal babies did not have symptoms of Zika.
We are still rapidly learning about Zika and our advice may change but at this stage the advice to for pregnant women to avoid travel to Zika risk areas and for women to avoid pregnancy for 8 weeks after leaving risk areas still holds. Men who have been in Zika risk areas should abstain or use condoms for 6 months after leaving Zika areas to avoid passing it to a partner who may also become pregnant.
It is hard to know the risk of Zika at any destination at any time as it is a very changing picture but a useful website is :http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/ohp-zika-countries.htm