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Home / News / Bit by the bug

Bit by the bug

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Pregnancies can be disturbed by mosquitoes

By Trishna Buch

CHILDREN WHO are born to females with mosquito-borne virus zika are at a risk for contracting microcephaly, a condition where a child’s head is smaller than expected and their brain has not fully developed.
Unfortunately, a study conducted by UTMB Galveston found that ‘pregnant women at risk of zika virus infection may not be aware of the various ways the virus is spread.”
The study was focused on pregnant women residing in southeast Texas and included women who were born in the US and those who immigrated here from places where the virus is locally transmitted—such as central and South America.
The study found that although most of the surveyed women understand what zika virus is, they did not realize that the virus could be spread from sexual intercourse. Furthermore, the study also found that half of the surveyed women knew that travel to places with active zika outbreak was discouraged by the CDC, but they were not aware of which locations these were.  Lastly, the study also found that the women surveyed did not use repellant frequently, with some women stating they were worried if using a repellant is safe during pregnancy.
“What we found with this survey was that there are several gaps in knowledge about zika and that women wanted to know more about it,” Abbey Berenson, director of UTMB”s center for interdisciplinary research in women’s health and the lead author of the study, said.
Berenson also addressed the women’s concerns that using mosquito repellant while pregnant would be unsafe by saying: “mosquito repellants that are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency are not only safe to use, the CDC actually recommends pregnant women
use them in areas with zika virus transmission.”
The study – whose findings were published in The American Journal Of Tropical Medicine And Hygiene—found that the surveyed women would agree to a zika vaccine if one became available and wanted to learn more about the virus from their healthcare provider.
“While the survey only looked at pregnant women in southeast Texas, it is an important reminder to health care providers to talk to their patients about zika, how it is transmitted and how to lower the risks of acquiring the virus.”
The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health. Joining Berenson in the study were several UTMB officials including Erika Fuchs and Jacqueline Hirth, assistant professors in obstetrics and gynecology.

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