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Viral and Bacterial Exposures

Everyone gets sick from time to time. Most illnesses can be managed with over-the-counter and prescribed medications that are safe in pregnancy. (See Medications.) Some of the following illnesses often cause particular concern for pregnant women—and many of them have ways to prevent and treat them safely.

Fifth’s Disease—Fifth’s disease, or slapped cheek syndrome, is caused by an infection called parvovirus. It presents with very red cheeks along with mild fever or illness, and is most common in children. If you come in contact with a child who has this, let us know. We can do blood tests to check your exposure.

Chicken Pox—Exposure to chicken pox can be dangerous while pregnant. If you had a chicken pox infection as a child or have been previously immunized, you are likely immune to further infection. If you are unsure whether you’ve had the illness, we can check your immunity with a blood test.

Bordetella Pertussis—Also called “whooping cough,” Pertussis is a very contagious respiratory illness that can cause serious, even fatal, illness in young infants. Babies get vaccinated but are not fully protected until they receive their third shot at 6 months of age. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends all pregnant women, dads, grandparents younger than 65 years of age, caregivers and daycare providers (anyone having contact with infants less than one year old) receive a booster vaccine. Called Tdap, this vaccine replaces the tetanus-diphtheria booster shot. You can get this vaccine at 28 weeks in our office. Family members should check with their physician to be vaccinated.

Influenza—A flu vaccine is safe and encouraged for all pregnant women at any time during pregnancy. Your baby will benefit from this vaccine due to antibodies crossing the placenta, which help protect your susceptible newborn from the flu virus. Nasal flu mist, however, is not safe to use in pregnancy.

Tuberculosis—A TB (tuberculosis) skin test is safe at any time during pregnancy.

Listeriosis—Because the immune system is suppressed during pregnancy, pregnant women are more likely to get Listeria than non-pregnant women; however, it is extremely unlikely (one in 50 million). Transmitted by bacteria in food, Listeria can cause severe infection, preterm labor and miscarriage. Symptoms may show up 2-30 days after exposure and include mild, flu-like symptoms—fever, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and muscle aches. A simple blood test can confirm listeriosis. The highest-risk foods are soft cheeses (i.e. brie, blue cheese, Mexican style, feta), deli meats, pâté, undercooked hot dogs, and raw fruits and vegetables that have been inadequately washed. Be sure to wash all vegetables, fruits and salads before cooking or eating.

Zika—Zika is a virus that is transmitted by a mosquito but also via sexual intercourse. Zika infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects and is associated with other pregnancy problems. Please refer to the CDC website for the most current information about Zika. Do NOT travel to areas with Zika. If your sex partner travels to an area with Zika, protect yourself from getting Zika during sex by using condoms every time you have sex for the duration of the pregnancy. Zika may be asymptomatic. You can still become infected if your partner never develops symptoms. Protect yourself from mosquito bites if you must travel to an area where Zika has been transmitted.

See our Preconceptual Health information on Zika Travel here if you are planning to get pregnant and you or your partner will be traveling to areas with risk of Zika.

Use EPA registered insect repellants with DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535. When used as directed, EPA registered repellants are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

CMV—Cytomegalovirus is the most common virus passed from mothers to babies. Most people are exposed to it when they are young. About 2% of women develop CMV during pregnancy and of those, 33% will pass it to their baby. Most babies do not have symptoms but some can have birth defects from the virus. Most people do not have symptoms from the virus, but common symptoms are fever, sore throat, severe fatigue and swollen glands. There is a simple blood test that can be done in our office to test for the virus.

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