The Zika Virus and Breastfeeding

By now, you may have heard that the Zika virus is running rampant is some parts of South America. There have been many confirmed cases of Zika in the southern part of the United States in several states. This virus is transmitted by mosquitoes, so an otherwise normal female mosquito that bites a person that is positive for Zika, can then continue to spread it. The WHO has a right to be concerned! For people that are not pregnant, the sickness is very mild. However, there is a strong link between the Zika virus and microcephaly. There were 4,000 cases of microcephaly in Brazil, a 2,500% increase from 2014. The earlier in pregnancy a mother is, the riskier it is to her developing baby.

What does this mean for breastfeeding mothers? Many may be concerned that they may transmit this virus to their baby. According to the CDC, there haven’t been any cases where Zika virus has been passed along through breast milk. However, the baby may still be bitten by a positively infected mosquito, and may contract the illness.

mosquito-bite

Zika virus RNA has been found in breast milk and this could actually benefit the baby. Mothers may  be passing antibodies to the Zika virus through their breast milk, which could act as a vaccine. It is unknown whether this would completely prevent the illness, or just lessen the symptoms. Currently, there is not a vaccine for the Zika virus.

The CDC has a list of symptoms to look out for, but I am unsure if these symptoms would present differently or more severely in babies and small children.

From the CDC:

  • About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus become ill (i.e., develop Zika).
  • The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) for Zika virus disease is not known, but is likely to be a few days to a week.
  • The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week.
  • Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for a few days but it can be found longer in some people.
  • Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.
  • Deaths are rare.

Continue to breastfeed your child, but take protective measures to prevent getting bitten by any mosquitoes. This includes eliminating potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes, making sure there is no standing water outside. Wear long sleeves and pants. Use mosquito repellent, here is an approved list for safe repellents, and limit time spent outside during high mosquito activity. Mosquitoes attack at dawn and dusk, in warm climates, and high humidity weather.

If anyone has anything to add to this post, please comment below.

Sources:

  1. http://www.cdc.gov/zika/symptoms/index.html
  2. http://www.cdc.gov/zika/hc-providers/qa-pediatrician.html
  3. http://www.cdc.gov/westnile/faq/repellent.html
  4. http://www.mosquitoworld.net/when-mosquitoes-bite/feeding-habits/
  5. http://kellymom.com/pregnancy/bf-prep/how_breastmilk_protects_newborns/
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4 comments on “The Zika Virus and Breastfeeding

  1. […] The Zika Virus and Breastfeeding by Miranda Gallegos, IBCLC […]

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  2. Sunny Gault says:

    Hi Miranda! Just found your article online. I produce an audio podcast focused on breastfeeding called The Boob Group (http://www.newmommymedia.com/the-boob-group). We’re working on an podcast focused on Zika and I’d like to invite you to be part of it. We’ve already interviewed a rep from the CDC, but I’d like to get an IBCLCs point of view as well. Thanks!

    Like

  3. Sunny Gault says:

    Hi Miranda! Just found your article online. I produce an audio podcast focused on breastfeeding called The Boob Group (http://www.newmommymedia.com/the-boob-group). We’re working on an episode focused on Zika and I’d like to invite you to be part of it. We’ve already interviewed a rep from the CDC, but I’d like to get an IBCLCs point of view as well. Thanks!

    Like

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