Zika Virus – Will it Impact My Fertility Treatment?
Recently, it seems like you can’t turn on the news without hearing about Zika virus outbreaks and the potential dangers of the disease. Many of our patients are wondering how Zika will impact their treatment. Although the outbreaks are alarming, the emergence of this virus does not necessarily mean that women living in the U.S. should postpone their pregnancy or fertility treatments. However, being aware of the disease and taking necessary precautions to avoid the disease are important.
What is Zika and how does it spread?
The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne disease that is part of the same family as yellow fever, West Nile, chikungunya and dengue. The virus is most commonly transmitted when an Aedes mosquito bites a person with an active infection and then spreads the virus by biting others. Those people become carriers when they have symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently confirmed that the disease can be passed on through sexual transmission. Significant attention has been given to Zika, because the virus has been definitively linked to serious birth defects, such as microcephaly.
In most people, symptoms of the virus are mild and include: fever, headache, rash and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Only 20-25 percent of infected people are reporting symptoms.
At this point, no local mosquito-borne Zika virus cases have been reported in the U.S. However, local outbreaks are occurring in many countries in parts of Africa, Central and South America, and in the Pacific Islands, so we are encouraging our patients to avoid travel to these areas of the world, if possible. Up-to-date travel advisories are available on the CDC website.
Zika in Texas
Experts believe that mosquitoes carrying Zika virus could spread to Houston as early as this summer. With the recent flooding, there is concern that our mosquito population could surge, so it’s important to eliminate standing water on your property to discourage mosquitoes from breeding. Public officials recommend emptying containers and removing anything that might collect water, as well as patching up holes in window screens.
In addition, both men and women should take steps to prevent mosquito bites. When outdoors, we recommend wearing EPA-approved insect repellants and/or long-sleeved shirts and pants.
Zika and fertility treatment
At this point, we do not recommend delaying fertility treatment. However, we are following CDC’s recommended guidelines:
- Women who have Zika disease symptoms should wait at least 8 weeks after symptoms appear, and men should wait 6 months, before attempting reproduction.
- Men and women with possible exposure to, but not showing symptoms of, Zika should also wait 8 weeks.
- These same timelines should be used for sexually intimate couples using their own gametes in fertility treatments.
- For donated reproductive tissue, FDA guidance should be followed. Currently, FDA rules a potential donor ineligible for 6 months following being diagnosed with, or having had a high probability of exposure to, the virus.
- Testing for Zika virus is complicated, not universally available and routine serologic testing is not currently recommended.
- In areas of active Zika virus transmission, the use of contraceptive methods to prevent unintended pregnancy is essential.
- Pregnant women’s sex partners living in or returning from areas where local transmission of Zika virus occurs should wear condoms, or abstain from sex throughout the pregnancy.
Although many questions remain about the Zika virus, women living in the continental United States currently have very little risk to their pregnancies as long as they follow the CDC guidelines listed above.. The best way to prevent Zika virus is by staying out of ZIka affected areas while planning and throughout pregnancy. We will continue to closely monitor the status of Zika and we’ll provide updates to our patients as we learn more. As always, the health and well-being of our patients will be our first priority. If you have any concerns about Zika as you undergo fertility treatment, please contact us at 713-465-1211.