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How Long is a Zika-infected Pregnant Woman Infectious?

Abdulla Al-Khan, MD, director of the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine and Surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center, discusses the length of time during which a mother can pass on a Zika infection to her fetus with Contagion.

Abdulla Al-Khan, MD, director of the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine and Surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center, discusses the length of time during which a mother can pass on a Zika infection to her fetus with Contagion.

Interview Transcript (slightly modified for readability)

“Mothers who develop [a] Zika infection go through a very short period of time where they’re infectious, or they’re infected. Usually the symptoms of [an infection are] very short-lived: a few days of joint pain, muscle aches, a rash, conjunctivitis. And that occurs in about 20% [of infected individuals], so 80% of the moms may not have any symptoms- usually that’s when they’re infected. Symptoms go away and most patients do extremely well. The true infectious period is very short in moms who contract [a] Zika infection.

I think the peak of the infection, [when] the baby can get [infected] is generally in the early first trimester, into the second trimester.

The body will take care of itself in the first couple of weeks [of infection] for the mom. But in terms of the fetus, we do not know exactly what the long-term implication of this infection is. Is it a short-term implication in which the baby is [infected] and develops the neurologic insult? Does that halt after a week, and the damage is done? Or does that linger throughout the course of the pregnancy? I don’t think anyone has the [answers to these questions].”