Six cases of Zika have been confirmed in pregnant women. The Ministry of Health is currently monitoring these cases and will be monitoring the babies once they are born, for the next three years. Three of the children have already been born and are not showing signs of having contracted the disease. Dr. Natalia Largaespada Beer spoke about Zika in pregnant women and prevention methods.
DR NATALIA LARGAESPADA
“We have 6 positive cases among pregnant women, three of them have already delivered, so far the newborns haven’t shown any consequences of the Zika virus infection but the recommendation currently is to follow these infants up to three years so that is ongoing. Whenever we have a suspected case of Zika in a male we always ask the question if their partner is pregnant and if the response is yes then the woman is also screened for the virus with or without any signs. For pregnant women they should practice safer sex or abstain from sexual activity. Now this is a bit difficult and this is recommended for the entire duration of the pregnancy so here the partners are important because without their active participation none of these two can be practiced.”
One of the biggest concerns for doctors when it comes to Zika in pregnant women is the possibility of the unborn fetus being affected by Microcephaly, or a baby born with an abnormally small head. Dr. Beer spoke about their monitoring for Microcephaly and the consequences the impairment can have on a child’s life.
“In regards to microcephaly the surveillance of the effects exposed infants have now been expanded from not only microcephaly but to other congenital malformations related to Zika currently we are following up on three infants that are not Zika related but may be having a case of microcephaly. What are the consequences if a child were to present microcephaly and this is not only for Zika cases, you have Caesar’s developmental delays with speech, standing, sitting, walking, intellectual disability, a decreased ability to learn and function in daily life, problems with movement and balance, difficulty swallowing, hearing loss and vision problems. So as you can see microcephaly is not only related to Zika.”
The Ministry is asking the public to apply prevention methods issued by the World Health Organization especially for populations with high indexes of Zika. The methods may be rigid, but they are necessary says Dr.Beer.
“The WHO recommends for regions with active Zika virus transmissions like Belize that male and females with the Zika virus infections and their sexual partners particularly pregnant women must receive information about the risk of sexual transmission of the virus and this is being provided. Counseling men and women on safer sexual practices and providing them with condoms. There is no treatment, no vaccine against the Zika virus. A lot of the preventative measures that are being recommended can be applied to women that are not pregnant and women during pregnancy. So just a reminder for the public in general keep the dwellings free of mosquito breeding sites, use of screens on the windows and doors, the use of repellents, bednets, proper clothing and this is for protection against the mosquito bite, condom use for protection against the sexual transmission of the Zika Virus.”
The Ministry is also offering counseling to pregnant women that have tested positive for Zika. So far, there are five cases of Microcephaly in Belizean children. Two were diagnosed in 2015 and three were diagnosed this year.