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Timing Conception Can Protect Against Congenital Zika Infection


Micaela Martinez, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University, discusses the seasonality of the Zika virus and how pregnant women can avoid getting the virus during pregnancy.

Interview Transcript (slightly modified for readability).

“Before I explain how conception can be planned to avoid Zika during pregnancy, first I should let you know a little bit about Zika. Zika virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito and what happens is, an infected mosquito will take a blood-meal from a person and at that time they can transmit the virus. If a pregnant woman is infected with Zika virus, then this virus can be transmitted to the fetus through the placenta. If the fetus is infected, then this can result in birth defects [or] miscarriage.

The work that I’ve been doing this year has been focused on how pregnant women can avoid getting Zika virus during pregnancy. The majority of my work has been focused on the seasonality of infectious diseases, so this is something that most people are quite aware of but just don’t think about it on a daily basis. For instance, we all know that influenza hits during the winter time, if you are in the northern hemisphere. The common cold [is] also a winter time disease. But, for essentially all acute viral infections, they have seasonal transmission, [meaning that] there’s a particular time of year when that virus is transmitted, and mosquito-transmitted viruses are no different: [there is] a particular time of year when there are lots of mosquitos around and they are transmitting the disease.

With Zika, like other vector-borne or mosquito-transmitted diseases, like dengue [or] chikungunya, we anticipate that it will be transmitted seasonally. The whole idea is, if you imagine, there will be a particular time of year where Zika virus transmission is very high, and then other times of the year when Zika virus transmission is very low. If you are a woman [who] is planning on getting pregnant, and you want to avoid getting Zika during pregnancy, the idea is, we can encourage women or let women know that there is [a seasonal] window of opportunity when Zika virus transmission is going to be low, and if they plan their pregnancy so that their gestation is during that low season, then they will be minimizing the risk of getting the infection, passing it on [to] their fetus, and having a baby born with birth defects.”
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