Pregnant women unaware how Zika virus can spread, survey finds

Jun 20, 2017, 06:16 AM by Christopher Smith Gonzalez

Mosquito bar

Pregnant women at risk of Zika virus infection may not be aware of the various ways the virus is spread or be taking the proper preventive measures.

A survey conducted by UTMB researchers focused on pregnant women in Southeast Texas. The participants included women born in the U.S. as well as women who had immigrated to the U.S. from Central and South America where the Zika virus is locally transmitted. The find­ings were published in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

“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,” said Dr. Abbey Berenson, lead author of the study and direc­tor of the Center for Interdis­ciplinary Research in Women’s Health at UTMB.

While almost all the women surveyed said they had heard of the Zika virus, most did not know that, along with mosquito bites, the virus could be spread through sex even if a partner did not display any of the symp­toms associated with Zika.

The survey also found about half of the women knew that the Centers for Disease Con­trol and Prevention had rec­ommended against traveling to outbreak areas during pregnan­cy, but those surveyed had little knowledge of what areas had confirmed mosquito-borne outbreaks of Zika.

Another cause for concern was most of the women surveyed did not frequently use mosquito repellant. Almost half of the women in the survey said they were worried about the safety of using repellent during pregnancy, according to the study.

“A key finding of our study was that many pregnant women who may be at risk of contracting the Zika virus do not use mosquito repellants because they fear they are unsafe during pregnancy,” Berenson said. “But this is not true. Mosquito repel­lents 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.”

There was strong support for testing for Zika and most women surveyed said they’d agree to be vaccinated against Zika if a vaccine became available.

Women surveyed also said they would like to know more about the Zika virus from their health care 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,” Berenson said.

Other authors included Ha N. Trinh, Jacqueline M. Hirth, Fang­jian Guo, Erika L. Fuchs and Scott Weaver, all with UTMB.

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

For tips on how to protect yourself from the Zika virus, click here.