Winter getaway leaves pregnant woman uneasy about Zika virus

Zika Virus travel

- Last winter, Alyssa Drishpon and her husband, who have a son and a daughter, decided to try for one more child.

"We were trying to get pregnant,” Drishpon says. “We were on vacation in the Dominican Republic with my family for our annual winter break trip, we call it."

It worked. Alyssa got pregnant.  Then, almost overnight, the Zika virus exploded into a global health crisis.

The virus, linked to severe birth defects like microcephaly, seems to be targeting pregnant women and their unborn babies.

Soon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was warning pregnant women - and those trying to conceive -- not to travel to a growing list of countries and territories where infected-mosquitoes were actively spreading the virus.

One of those hotspots? The Dominican Republic, where Alyssa had vacationed.

"It clearly put me into a high-tail panic,” Drishpon says. “I was just freaking out and trying to remember, 'Well how many times did I get bit, and where was I bit, and was I itching, and did anything else happen?"

Drishpon immediately called North Atlanta OBGYN, and Dr. Meera Garcia offered to see her that day.

"And (she) really helped to kind of calm me down, and to tell me what we do know and what we don't know,” says Drisphon.

The CDC says there is a lot we don’t know.  For example, we don’t know if a pregnant woman is bitten by an infected mosquito, we don’t know how likely she is to contract Zika.  If she is infected, we don’t know how likely she is to pass the virus to her fetus.  And, if that happens, we don’t know whether the woman’s fetus will develop birth defects.

Garcia says she’s seen several patients like Drishpon, who traveled to Zika-affected areas unaware they might be at-risk.

"I would say we've seen every emotion from fear and anxiety to a calmer, 'Tell me more about this virus,' " says Dr. Garcia.

The problem?  There is no clear-cut path, if a woman is infected.

"We don't have a vaccine,” says Garcia.  “We don't have a treatment. We don't have anything except dealing with the aftermath.  And that's, that's the problem."

Alyssa needed answers.  So Garcia sent her to a perinatologist.  The first visit felt a little overwhelming.

"Everything was ‘Zika, Zika, Zika,’” says Drishpon.  “And it was, 'Okay, we're drawing your blood today and we're sending it to the CDC."  And it was, like, 'Oh, my God.  What if this comes back that you tested positive for the antibodies?”  You still don't know if you have it."

Fortunately Alyssa's blood work was negative, indicating she had not contracted the virus  But, to be cautious, she's getting monthly ultrasounds to  measuring the baby's development and head size.

"It's pure anxiousness and anxiety,” Drishpon says. “Because you don't have any control over it. And every time you go, it's ‘Will the measurements still be okay?’"

Drishpon says she feels a little bit better after each checkup because her unborn baby’s development seems to be normal.

"But, I feel like until the baby is out and in my arms, I will just be a nervous wreck,” she says.

Now at 22 weeks gestation, more than halfway through her pregnancy, Alyssa wears insect repellant every time she goes outdoors, and the Drishpons had their yard treated to kills mosquitoes.

But, with summer, and mosquito season nearing, it's an uneasy time to be growing a family.

"It's just a lot of unknowns,” Drishpon says.  “Is it going to be here? Is it going to be in South Florida?  Do I stay inside all summer? You just don't know."


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