Can a Mother Breastfeed while having Zika Virus?

Whats New about Zika Virus Infections in Breastfeeding Moms

Breastfeeding & Vertical Exposure to Zika Virus

Can you breastfeed while infected with zika virus and you have to nurse your newborn? The dilemma of if nursing mothers can feed their newborn while suffering from certain conditions is a worrisome issue that requires urgent answers.

The World is a vast, wide place with many beautiful things like our awesome babies and some not so good things like the Zika Virus. The Zika Virus, which was first found in Uganda in 1947, is now very much widespread globally. Currently, cases have been reported in over eighty-six countries, particularly prevalent in subtropical and tropical regions such as the Pacific, West Africa, South America, North America, and Central America.

Being a most worrying virus in pregnant women and little infants, the zika virus has drawn study interest from major international healthcare bodies over the years. Several findings have been made on how it originates, how it can be transferred (most especially to babies) and steps to prevent it.

In this article, we’ll share some of those findings with you so you can know how best to protect your baby from the virus, especially if you already have it.

We’ll show you how the virus is most transferred, where it’s most prevalent, its symptoms, and how you can further protect yourself and your baby from the harmful effects of the virus.

What is the Zika Virus?

Uncovered in the Zika Village in Uganda, experts named the virus after it. Zika Virus is a type of virus generally spread by highly infected mosquitoes. The major type of mosquito that primarily transfers this virus belongs to the Aedes species, and they bite mostly during the day. However, the virus is not borne by all mosquitoes, and being bitten by infected mosquitoes does not equal getting Zika.

People who get mostly infected by the zika virus are those who live in high active transmission areas and those who travel there. It can also be conveyed from an infected pregnant mother to her unborn child through unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected partner or blood transfusion from an infected person.

Symptoms of the Zika Virus

Over eighty percent of people diagnosed with the Zika Virus do not exhibit any symptoms or signs. It mostly comes and goes without making a noise. However, the other less than twenty percent will only experience minor symptoms, which some of them are:

  • Headache
  • Joint or Muscle pain
  • A Skin Rash
  • Slight Fever
  • Conjunctivitis

The infected person will only experience the above-stated symptoms for some days. Having mentioned that, it is imperative to get tested by a verifiable healthcare center whenever any of these symptoms surface, primarily when related to a mosquito bite. This is because the infected person can still easily infect other people with the virus even if he/she experiences no symptoms.

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Furthermore, the virus is most harmful when found in a pregnant woman because it can cause congenital disorders like microcephaly (small head and small brain) in the baby when it infects the fetus. According to the World Health Organization, the zika virus has been observed to lead to the Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), which is a critical condition where the nerves and the immune system go against each other, leading to paralysis.

The Zika Virus is not a deadly one, with no major record of the virus directly leading to an infected person’s death.

Tips to Prevent Getting the Zika Virus

Prevention is better than cure, as they say, comes true when it pertains to addressing the Zika Virus. It has no cure of its own, and it can’t be treated with medications and vaccines.

The best way to tackle this virus is by preventing it as much as we can, and we can begin by following the simple steps below:

Avoid Mosquito-laden Environments

The way zika mostly spreads is through mosquitoes, and you would be doing yourself a great deal of good by staying away from mosquito-laden environments. Before moving to a particular area, do well to find out more about the health of the area and prepare accordingly. It is better not to travel while staying healthy than to put yourself and your baby at risk of contracting the virus.

Avoid Zika-laden Areas

If you’re aware of the prevalence of the virus in an area or region, do well to stay away from such places. Without the slightest hint, you can contract the virus, so you must try as much as you can to stay away from these environments.

Keep Your Environment Clean

Mosquitoes are magnetically attracted to dirty environments. If you do want to have a home filled with unfriendly mosquitoes, do well to keep your surroundings clean. This will go a long way in fending off mosquitoes, and further protect you from exposure to the zika virus.

Get Rid of Stagnant Water

If you have any water standing around for a long time, throw them out. Mosquitoes make their home in stagnant water, and getting rid of these waters is a big step in protecting yourself and your baby.

Make Use of Mosquito Repellents

You can use mosquito repellents to drastically reduce the rate at which you get bitten by mosquitoes. A highly recommended one is Permethrin, which is easy to use for your bed nets, shoes, and clothes. If you particularly live in a Zika-ridden area, this should be one of your priorities.

Use Clothes That Properly Cover

This is primarily for you if your area is highly active in Zika virus transmission. Make sure you wear clothes that appropriately safeguard your skin, such as long-sleeves, trousers, socks, and gloves. As long as you keep your body safe under these clothes, you can worry less about getting infected.

Go for Regular Medical Checkups

As mentioned earlier, most infected persons do not exhibit symptoms, meaning they can have the virus without knowing they do. Whenever you get yourself exposed to a Zika-laden environment or mosquito bites, do well to see your doctor immediately. Also, month after month, go for regular checkups and tests to be sure you’re fine.

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Avoid Unprotected Sex with an Infected Partner

If your partner happens to be tested positive for the virus or has recently been exposed to an area with a zika virus outbreak, make sure you both do not engage in unprotected sex. Make use of protective materials such as a condom until your partner tests negative.

Stay Healthy

Always feed yourself and your baby generously. Suppose you practice the above-stated safety measures religiously. In that case, you shouldn’t get infected with the virus, but peradventure you do, taking proper care of yourself will help fasten the healing process. Always keep yours and your baby’s clothes clean and dried.

Does the Zika Virus Have a Cure?

There has been no record of a cure for the Zika virus, and an infected person cannot take preventive measures such as vaccination and medication. To address their symptoms, infected persons are advised to visit a healthcare center. However, paracetamol has proven over time to be effective in alleviating some of the symptoms.

Can Your Baby Get Zika through Breastfeeding?

Some years ago, the breast milk of infected mothers was analyzed thoroughly, and the zika virus was found in them. This led to a widespread panic amongst mothers, followed by the questioning of experts as to if the zika virus can be transmitted from the mother to a baby during a breastfeeding session or not. In response, the experts reaffirmed that the benefits enjoyed by the baby from consumption of breast milk exceed in great detail the risk of potential transmission of the virus.

As at the time of this writing, there’s been no documented event of the virus being transmitted to a baby when breastfed. Also, a significant study of infected infants (infected after childbirth) is highly infectious regions shows that there have been no neurological complications whatsoever in these kids.

To further support nursing mothers, the World Health Organization released some guidelines on breastfeeding your baby, especially if you’re infected with the virus. They published “Infant Feeding Guidelines,” which is recommended for mothers diagnosed with the virus or those who are residents in high transmission regions or those who recently traveled to a highly affected area.

The guidelines state clearly that a newborn should undergo their first breastfeeding session in just an hour after birth and that they are massively breastfed across the succeeding six months. At a proper age, the baby’s diet should be complemented with safe and sufficient food. Furthermore, until the baby clocks two years or a little more, they should be breastfed appropriately.

What Do You Do After Visiting a Zika-Laden Area?

Suppose you happen to travel to a region where Zika is highly prominent upon returning. In that case, you should take some safety measures to prevent the spread of the virus to your community. For preferably about three weeks, make sure any mosquitoes do not bite you because when infected, these mosquitoes can go on to bite others in your area, thereby spreading the virus.

Even despite the fact that breast milk may be infected, the virus does not get transmitted through breastfeeding. Experts say the benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh the risk of your baby contracting the virus.

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