The guidelines have been introduced following the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring the outbreak of the Zika virus an international health emergency.
Pregnant women who contract the Zika virus (ZIKV) have an increased risk of congenital and neurological complications to the foetus.
Microcephaly, a condition where the brain has not fully developed, has been reported in ZIKV infected areas.
The suspected number of cases of microcephaly in Brazil has reached 4000; however, microcephaly is only considered to have a ‘potential’ link with ZIKV.
The guidelines have been published for midwives, nurses and other maternal health care professionals, and will be updated as more information becomes available.
Interim clinical guidelines for ZIKV in pregnancy can be found on the RCOG website.
People at risk of infection are pregnant women who have travelled to the Americas in the last few months, at any stage of pregnancy, and have had other congenital infections such as CMV, Rubella and toxoplasmosis.
In the U.S there has been a confirmed case of ZIKV being transmitted through sexual contact.
ZIKV is transmitted by a bite from an infected female Aedes mosquito. In the UK, ZIKV does not occur naturally because the climate is not suitable for Aedes mosquitoes to survive.
Midwives and other health care professionals are recommended to be aware of pregnant women who have returned from South and Central America.
Brazil recorded its first case of ZIKV in May 2015, with cases currently confirmed in 23 countries and territories in South/Central America and the Caribbean (as of 27 January 2016) since then.
In the interim clinical guidelines, RCOG says: “The majority of people infected with ZIKV have minimal symptoms; in those who do have symptoms, ZIKV tends to cause a mild febrile illness which is short lived and rarely causes any significant pathology in the infected individual.”
ZIKV was first discovered in a Rhesus monkey in 1947, before cases being confirmed in humans a few years later.
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