Zika Virus & Pregnancy: When Aren’t Mosquitoes Assholes?

A few of you have emailed me about what’s going on with pregnant women in relation to the Zika virus.

Here’s the sitch:

We’ve known about this mosquito-borne illness since the 1950s. It causes symptoms like headache, fever, rash, etc. in your average person, however, it seems to be causing a surge of microcephaly cases in certain areas. This is a condition where babies’ brains stop growing and causes abnormally small heads. From what I can gather, the first trimester is the most dicey time.

There is no vaccine for the virus and avoiding bites from the virus-host mosquito is the only way to prevent infection.


At this stage in the game, the virus has shown up in Africa, Asia, The Caribbean, Central America, North America, South America, and the Pacific Islands. Below is a list of some of the more commonly traveled to destinations where Zika has been identified, but before you go, you might check and see if wherever you’re headed has been added to the list.


The CDC issued a Level 2 warning when traveling to the following countries*:

Africa: 30 different countries including Angola, Sudan, and Uganda (Again, I’m not listing everything because most people don’t fly 30 hours for a 5-day babymoon, but if you do, more power to ya!)

Asia: 14 different countries, including Thailand and Vietnam.

The Caribbean: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Barbados, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cuba, Curaçao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, Saba, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, US Virgin Islands.

Central America: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama.

North America: Mexico.

South America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela.

The Pacific Islands: Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga.

*There are three CDC warning levels:

Level 1 – wear sunscreen and use common sense so you aren’t robbed in a dark alley at 2am because you aren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto.

Level 2 – There could be some unique health and safety risks in this area but if you want to go, that’s cool, we just wanted to warn you that some no-so-great stuff is going down.

Level 3 – Don’t go. It’s bad and if you end up making the papers, people will read it and say, “Well, what the hell did they expect going to XX?!”


If you live in these countries:

Authorities are beginning to advise women to avoid pregnancy for a while.You know, until they get a vaccine or figure it out a little more – “just sit tight Madame, we’re working on some shit here.” I’m paraphrasing.


If you have travel plans for these countries:

I can fully appreciate the ass ache this presents. Do you skip a glorious sun-filled holiday because a mosquito *might* bite you and that mosquito *might* be hosting the Zika virus, and you *might* get infected with it? You know it’s really easy to say, “it isn’t worth the risk” when it isn’t your amazing vacation and two grand flying out the window.


Do you face a bunch of eye rolls from people saying, “You canceled your dream vacation because you’re scared of a bug?!” – because it’s really easy to say when you’re not the one taking the risk.


Zika Resources

The resources I found helpful are here and here and here. Just be sure to pay close attention to your sources when you’re reading around the interwebs – anything that is random and can affect pregnant women is excellent click bait.

And here is the information I collected on bug spray safety during pregnancy as well.

I swear this is yet another reason to hate mosquitoes.

P.S. How long will it take for someone to shrill “No vacation is worth the risk to a baby!!” when I post this on Facebook to make us feel extra turdy? I give it six comments.

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  • Thank you for this. I contacted my doctor and she gave me some good info. We have one lovely baby and starting to think about #2, but want to visit my family in the Caribbean before it costs us a pretty penny.

  • Thank you for this. I live in Florida, where a few cases of Zika have been reported. I’m currently 32 weeks pregnant & my husband has turned into a Zika maniac. I’m not allowed to leave our screened in porch or I seriously get yelled at. He rushes me from the house to the car every time I have an appt & he doesn’t even let me run errands with him anymore. Thankfully, he’s at sea for a few weeks (US Navy) & wasn’t home today to see me being attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes when I took the trash to the road. I can’t wait to pop this baby out so he can focus all the nervous energy on her instead of me.

  • I came back from Honduras with Zyka and i was 8 weeks pregnant. The amount of stress and endless worry is hard to explain. I am now 12 weeks pregnant and am working with my OBGYN and a high risk doctor to make sure baby is developing well. I have put it in God’s hand at this point and then feel better but then read articles everywhere about it and the fear starts creeping in. I wish there was more information on it but it’s something I am learning to let go and let God.

  • In response to Calli, the Zika virus hasn’t mutated and suddenly started doing things it didn’t do before. It just wasn’t known that it did this before. Pregnant women are a very small proportion of the population, about 1%, so even in a large epidemic, say 10,000 cases, only about 100 of the infected people will be pregnant, and of those only part will have babies with microcephaly. Thus, it is very easy to miss this effect of the virus. The reason why it was detected now is that Brazil is a huge country which keeps unified records. The Zika epidemic there affected way over 1 million people over a period of a few months, and so the microcephaly issue became visible. In fact, once Brazil issued the alert other places in which there had been Zika epidemics, such as the French Polynesia in 2014, went back to their records and realized that they too had an abnormal increase in microcephaly cases.

    That said, the CDC may have been overly cautious issuing an alert to whole countries where the contamination is still unlikely. Then again, maybe it was not overly cautious. Zika epidemics have a tendency of spreading incredibly fast. The first diagnosed case of Zika in Brazil was in April of 2015, the first related microcephaly cases started appearing in August 2015 and by the end of January 2016 there were over 4000 microcephaly cases (up from less than 150 in 2014). It is extremely hard to prevent Zika from spreading, since 80% of the infected people don’t even show symptoms. The speed at which the epidemic is spreading is truly astounding, and so even though most of Central America and Mexico is probably still very safe, it is unclear if and when it will no longer be. Remember that Brazil itself was very safe in 2014. The only completely safe places are those which don’t have the Aedes Aegypti mosquito.

    Now, about the vacation decision, I think that an important consideration is how far ahead it is planned. If it is coming in a couple of weeks, it pays to do some research about the actual situation of the Zika epidemic in the area you will be visiting right now. If they just diagnosed a handful of Zika cases, then the risk is probably very small. However, if they are already diagnosing microcephaly cases, even if few, in women who contracted the disease locally, then it could be very risky. Remember, very few people are pregnant, and if they had a baby with microcephaly they probably were infected over 6 months ago. The situation right now could be very dangerous. If the vacation is coming in more than one month, then it gets very hard to predict how the epidemic will be by that time. Again, in that case it pays to research the incidence of the mosquito (Aeded Aegypti) in the zone. If the mosquito is plentiful there, if there are numerous cases of dengue, chikuvgunya or yellow fever in the area, there could be plenty of Zika in a short amount of time.

  • My hospital is having an information session on this virus from an infectious disease physician. I’ll report back 😉

  • I found out about the Zika issue 2 days before my scheduled Babymoon to Mexico. I read and read and read. We felt pretty certain we were going to go anyway. We then spoke with our OB who looked at us like we had 2 heads for even considering the trip. In the end, we switched destinations and went to a chilly Hilton Head. For us, it wasn’t worth the risk. And believe me, I NEEDED this vacation. And now all the airlines and hotels are offering full refunds anyway. Mexico will still be there in 9 months and I won’t be a nervous nelly for the last 6 months of my pregnancy.

  • I just came back from my Babymoon on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico (Riviera Maya) to a flurry of panicked calls and emails from family and friends. I had been cleared to travel there by my OBGYN and the CDC warning came out just as we returned. My doctor made me come in for a precautionary sonogram (worth the $40 copay to reassure everyone I’m OK). That said, there have been 0 cases of Zika in the state we were in. There were a ton of other preggos on vacation at our resort and surrounding properties and when you’re paying good money for a fancy hotel then you’d better believe the management is spraying the campus inside out to kill any mosquitoes that may be lurking. At the end of the day, it’s the Caribbean – you shower yourself in bug spray no matter what island or peninsula you’re headed to.

  • The last four graphs of this article are why I totally heart this blog. There is so much hysteria out there surrounding pregnancy. I think we forget that women have been at this for hundreds of thousands of years, and we’ve never had it better, or safer. I’m fortunate to have great doctors, the kind that know that a cup of coffee and a little soft cheese aren’t going to kill you (or your baby). And I’m fortunate enough to have this blog that’s filled with great information but never buys into the hysteria. THANK YOU

  • I’m keeping my vacation plans to St. Barths (10 minute flight from St. Martin) and have hated seeing everyone saying it is terrible when all they know is that I was trying to get pregnant. I’m 8 weeks almost 9. I was already there when I found out I was expecting and am being tested by the CDC now because I did have a rash when I returned. To be clear, no one knew about Zika when I was there last so I was not careful about mosquitos. It’s my parents’ home and I’m confident in my ability to prevent mosquito bites. I guess I understand if you’re traveling to a place you don’t know with dense uncontrolled mosquitos that it is a bigger risk. I need this vacation.

  • I’m very curious why this virus seems to be causing lots of microcephaly all of a sudden. Has the virus mutated? Is there just better reporting these days? Is there another component to it – genetic predisposition in conjunction with the virus, some relation to the fact that huge numbers of women in Brazil have also been infected with toxoplasmosis, etc.?

    I’ll wait and see what happens with the babies of women in other countries who have been infected before I panic about these mosquitoes spreading to the US. (I’m pregnant myself.)

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