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Zika Infection and Fetal Complications - All You Need to Know

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5 min read


Zika virus infects people through mosquito bites, and infection during pregnancy leads to significant fetal abnormalities. Read the article for more details.

Written by

Dr. Saranya. P

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Khushbu

Published At October 11, 2023
Reviewed AtOctober 11, 2023


The Zika virus is most commonly transmitted to humans by mosquito bites, especially in tropical and subtropical regions. The majority of Zika virus victims exhibit no symptoms at all. However, mild fever, rash, and muscle soreness are common in some people. Even in those who never show any signs of infection, the Zika virus may, in rare circumstances, lead to difficulties with the brain or neurological system, such as Guillain-Barre syndrome. Zika, Zika fever, and Zika virus disease are other names for the Zika virus infection. In addition, the Zika virus during pregnancy can result in microcephaly and other congenital abnormalities, as well as preterm delivery and miscarriage.

What Is the Zika Virus?

The Zika virus is spread mainly by Aedes mosquitos, which bite primarily during the day. As a result, 20 % to 25 % of persons contracted the clinical Zika virus illness, characterized by a mild fever, a pruritic rash, discomfort in the small joints, and conjunctivitis (inflammation of the white part of the eye).

A higher risk of miscarriage exists for pregnant women who contract the Zika virus. In addition, pregnant women who contract the zika virus are also at a higher risk of having babies with severe birth problems, such as microcephaly, a potentially fatal brain disorder.

What Are the Causes of the Zika Virus Infection?

  • The most common way for the Zika virus to infect a person is through the bite of an infected mosquito. Two Aedes species of mosquitoes, which can be found worldwide, are among the mosquitoes known to carry the virus.

  • A mosquito becomes infected with the Zika virus when it bites a person with the disease. The virus then enters the bloodstream of the person bitten by the infected mosquito and produces an infection.

  • The Zika virus can potentially pass from a mother to her fetus while a woman is pregnant.

  • Sexual interaction is another way the virus can transfer from one person to another. In addition, people can occasionally get the virus through blood transfusions or organ donations.

When Does the Zika Virus Affect the Fetus?

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention presents the risk for Zika-related birth abnormalities for each trimester of pregnancy. It states that eight percent, or roughly 1 in 12, of pregnant women with proven first-trimester Zika infection, gave birth to a child or fetus with Zika-related birth abnormalities. According to the CDC, 5 % of conditions in the second and 4 % in the third trimester were affected. The two main complications seen in fetuses born to women infected with the zika virus during pregnancy are as follows:

  • Microcephaly.

  • Congenital Zika Syndrome.

What Is Microcephaly?

Microcephaly is a condition brought on by zika virus infection during pregnancy.

When a baby has microcephaly, their head is significantly smaller than average. A baby's head develops during pregnancy because the baby's brain also expands. The reason for microcephaly, which is characterized by a smaller head size, might include improper brain development during pregnancy or a baby's brain stopping to expand after birth. Depending on the severity of their microcephaly, babies can have various issues. The following issues have been connected to microcephaly:

  • Seizures.

  • Developmental delay, including speech issues or failure to meet critical developmental milestones (like sitting, standing, and walking).

  • Intellectual impairment (decreased ability to learn and function in daily life).

  • Issues with balance and movement.

  • Feeding issues, such as swallowing problems.

  • Loss of hearing.

  • Vision issues.

These issues can be modest to severe and frequently last for a lifetime. Newborns with severe microcephaly may experience more of these issues or have more trouble coping with them than babies with milder microcephaly. Severe microcephaly poses a risk to life. Babies with microcephaly frequently require close follow-ups by a healthcare practitioner to evaluate their growth and development.

How Is Microcephaly Diagnosed?

Microcephaly can be detected either during pregnancy or after the infant is delivered.

During Pregnancy:

Microcephaly can occasionally be identified with an ultrasound test (which produces body images). The ultrasound test should be performed late in the second or third trimester to detect microcephaly during pregnancy.

Following the Birth of the Child:

During a physical examination of a newborn baby, a medical professional will measure the diameter of the baby's head, also known as the head circumference, to determine whether the baby has microcephaly. Then, the provider compares this measurement to age and sex-specific demographic norms.

What Is Congenital Zika Syndrome?

Congenital Zika syndrome is a distinct pattern of birth abnormalities and disabilities identified in Zika-infected fetuses and babies during pregnancy. Although many of the symptoms associated with congenital Zika syndrome might also result from other illnesses contracted during pregnancy, the syndrome is frequently characterized by a pattern of the symptoms listed below:

  • Severe microcephaly with a partially collapsed skull.

  • Reduced brain tissue with a particular type of brain injury.

  • Damage to the back of the eye, such as scarring or changes in pigment.

  • Joints with a restricted range of motion, like clubfoot.

  • Immediately after birth, excessive muscle tone limits bodily movement.

The visual development of infants who contracted the Zika virus before birth may be impacted by damage to their eyes and the area of their brains responsible for vision. Eye issues can affect infants with and without microcephaly. Therefore, even if infants seem healthy, they should have the necessary screenings and testing to check for eye and other health issues if they were born with congenital Zika infection. The macula and the optic nerve are the most often observed structural ocular abnormalities in babies with suspected congenital Zika virus infection.

The most typical macular symptoms are

  • Spotty pigmentary mottling.

  • Chorioretinal atrophy.

Specific findings of the optic nerve include

  • Atrophy or hypoplasia of the optic nerve.

What Effects Does Zika Have On Pregnancy?

The Zika virus during pregnancy increases the chance of the following:

  • Low birth weight babies weigh under 5 pounds, 8 ounces at delivery.

  • Early pregnancy loss due to miscarriage.

  • Premature labor (childbirth occurring before the 37th week of pregnancy)

  • A stillbirth (when a fetus dies in the uterus after the 20th week of pregnancy).

How Is the Zika Virus Infection Diagnosed?

The doctor will probably question the medical and travel histories. Patients should Make a detailed account of any international excursions, including the countries they and their sexual partner visited, the dates they traveled, and whether they had any mosquito contact.

Zika virus is diagnosed through blood or urine tests. The doctor may advise taking the tests if they think there is a possibility of infection.

The doctor might also suggest one of the following procedures if a patient is pregnant and at risk of contracting the Zika virus.

  • A scan to check for fetal brain issues.

  • A hollow needle is inserted into the uterus during an amniocentesis procedure to remove a sample of amniotic fluid for testing for the Zika virus.

How Is It Treated?

There is no specific vaccination or treatment for the Zika virus. However, patients are advised to follow the actions to lessen symptoms:

  • Take in a lot of liquids.

  • Get a lot of sleep.

  • Use Acetaminophen, an over-the-counter pain reliever, to treat your fever and discomfort. Aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) are not taken until testing shows patients do not have dengue fever. In those with dengue fever, these medications may increase the risk of bleeding.

How to Prevent This Disease?

These recommendations may reduce the likelihood of contracting the Zika virus if expecting a child or trying to get pregnant:

  • Make careful travel plans. The CDC advises all pregnant women to stay away from locations where the Zika virus is rising.

  • If attempting to get pregnant, discuss with a doctor whether forthcoming travel plans or those of the partner pose a higher risk of contracting the Zika virus. The doctor might advise waiting two to three months following the trip before trying to get pregnant.

  • Use safe sex. The CDC recommends against engaging in sexual activity while pregnant or using a condom whenever possible if you have a partner who resides in or has visited a location where the Zika virus is spreading.

Some measures to protect from mosquito bites are as follows:

  • Use certified insect repellent with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

  • Eliminate any puddles or buckets of standing water outside the home.

  • Use the pesticide permethrin on clothes and shoes.

  • When outside, put on long sleeves and pants.


Zika virus spreads through infected mosquito bites. It may cause severe complications in the fetus when a woman gets infected during pregnancy. The best method to defend against zika virus infection is to avoid mosquito bites and other transmission sources, as there are currently no treatments or vaccinations available for the illness.

Frequently Asked Questions


Why Dolo 650 is used?

Dolo 650 contains Paracetamol which is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug used mainly for mild to moderate pain and fever which can be due to a headache,inflammation, infection, pain in the muscles, cramps due to menstruation, etc.


Is Dolo 650 a painkiller?

Yes, it is a painkiller. By the category of drug it falls into, it is a good analgesic (painkiller) and antipyretic (against fever) but poor anti-inflammatory.


How often can Dolo 650 be taken?

It can be taken thrice daily at the maximum by adults. Do not overdose it more than 4 grams in adults and it is better to consult your physician before taking it, if in doubt.


Does Dolo 650 affect pregnancy?

It is comparatively a safer drug during pregnancy but try to limit the dosage, and has exceptions too. Hence, get your doctor’s consent before having it.


What is the side effect of Dolo 650?

The side effects include the following. Allergy, nauseous, vomiting, ulcer (stomach or mouth), anemia, unusually finding a bleeding or bruise, lethargy, and fatigue.


Can Dolo 650 be used for stomach pain?

It can be used in case it is a muscular cramp. But, if it is due to any other cause like ulcer,etc., it is advisable to get treated for the disease.


Can Dolo 650 be used for body pain?

Yes, one of the major indication of this medicine is for mild to moderate pain. This gives temporary relief. But, in case you continue to have the pain for longer periods, get yourself evaluated for the cause and treatment.


Which tablet is best for fever?

Paracetamol is the gold standard tablet used during fever, though should be used cautiously in patients with liver disease.


Is Combiflam a painkiller?

Yes, Combiflam is a combination of Paracetamol and Ibuprofen, which are potent painkillers, and come under the major group of drugs called a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug.


Is Crocin banned in US?

No, it is not. Plain paracetamol available in the name of Acetaminophen (Tylenol) in US. But the combination with other pain killers are banned due to high death rate caused by liver toxicity.
Dr. Khushbu
Dr. Khushbu

Obstetrics and Gynecology


zika virus
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