What women – and men — need to know about the Zika virus

couple sonogram
Fortunately for those of us who live in the Pacific Northwest, the mosquito that causes the Zika virus doesn’t live here.

But don’t be complacent. Be aware of these new key research findings:

  • Zika virus can cause the serious birth defect microcephaly.
  • Zika virus can be spread during sex by a man infected with Zika to his partners.

Willamette Health Partners OB-GYN Lisa Rice, MD, says although the virus doesn’t necessarily mean the baby will have the birth defect, it’s important to take steps to reduce the chance of getting the virus. She shares the following advice to protect you, your partner and your baby.

Protect yourself and your partner during sex

Because the Zika virus can be transmitted in semen and sperm during sex, it’s important to use precautions if the male partner has traveled to an affected country or recently moved from there.

  • Either abstain from sex or use condoms for eight weeks.
  • Wait to get pregnant until eight weeks have passed if either you or your partner may have been exposed to the virus but are not experiencing Zika symptoms.

Protect your baby

If you’re pregnant, don’t go to an affected country. While the CDC isn’t recommending a travel ban, a number of countries are on the travel alert list at

If you absolutely must travel to those countries, be sure to follow all mosquito protection steps: wear long pants and shirts, and use mosquito repellant (it’s safe to use when pregnant).

See your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms

Go see your doctor if you’re experiencing possible Zika symptoms. These symptoms are usually mild and last from several days to a week. The most common Zika symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache.

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