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NOTE: This article may be slightly outdated as we learn more about the ZIKA Virus everyday. For the most accurate information about the ZIKA virus please visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention official ZIKA page.

ZIKA Virus and Reproductive Health – Utah

What is ZIKA?
Zika is a virus related to West Nile Virus. It was first identified in 1947. Zika is spread to humans through mosquito bites. An infected person may transmit the virus to others sexually, through blood transfusions, or from mother to fetus. Infection with Zika causes no symptoms in 80% of those infected. In affected individuals, common symptoms include fever, headache, rash, joint pain, muscle aches, and conjunctivitis (pink eye). Symptoms typically last only a few days, and people don’t usually get sick enough to go to the hospital. Death from Zika is extremely rare. However, Zika infection in pregnancy has been linked to more severe complications such as miscarriage, growth restriction, and brain defects including microcephaly in the baby. Thus, precautions are important for pregnant women and for those planning pregnancy.

Where is ZIKA?
Zika virus is currently found near the equator in South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean (including Puerto Rico). In the mainland United States, as of July 2016, multiple cases of ZIKA had been reported in a small area of Wynwood, Florida (outside Miami). In Utah, 8 cases of Zika virus infection have been found (2 in pregnant women). All cases in Utah have come from returning travelers – at this time, mosquitos in Utah do not seem to carry the virus.

What should I do about ZIKA if I’m pregnant or trying to get pregnant?
Pregnant women or women trying to become pregnant should not be concerned about getting Zika virus in Utah. However, pregnant women should not travel to areas where Zika is spreading. If you have to travel, prevention of mosquito bites is critical. For couples with a partner who has traveled to an area with Zika, the CDC recommends waiting at least 8 weeks before attempting pregnancy. If the male partner has been diagnosed with Zika or had symptoms, the couple should wait at least 6 months from the start of symptoms before attempting pregnancy. If you may have Zika or have recently traveled to an area where Zika is spreading, call your physician’s office immediately. Testing is available, and a national registry has been started for those exposed in pregnancy.

Will ZIKA affect my fertility treatments?
If you are pursuing fertility treatments, the recommendations for delaying attempts as outlined above would apply. For third party reproduction in the US, anonymous donations of embryos, eggs, or sperm from living donors is regulated by the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Donation is not allowed if the donor had a diagnosis of Zika virus infection in the past 6 months or resides in or has travelled to an area with active Zika virus transmission within the past 6 months. If you are using frozen donated embryos, eggs, or sperm, there may be potential for exposure if they were frozen at a time before screening procedures were in effect and you should discuss this with your physician.

Information is changing rapidly as we learn more about the disease. This means that recommendations for prevention and treatment may also change rapidly, and the information above is only good for now. For the latest information, please see the links below and discuss any concerns with your physician.

http://www.cdc.gov/zika/
http://health.utah.gov/epi/diseases/zika
http://www.acog.org/About-ACOG/ACOG-Departments/Zika-Virus/For-Patients
https://www.asrm.org/American_Society_for_Reproductive_Medicine_Issues_Guidance_Document_on_Zika_Virus/

August 2, 2016
Shawn E. Gurtcheff, MD, MS
Utah Fertility Center