Welcome to our first parent chat of 2016. Just waiting for Dr. B. to connect online.
She's running a few minutes behind, so stay tuned..
We are going to start with common questions about the Zika virus, which has dominated the headlines.
Hello! Excited to talk about Zika virus and more today and take questions.
The World Health Organization has declared a public health emergency about the outbreak of the mosquito-born virus, which can cause serious damage to fetuses.
I think it is important to put the whole Zika virus epidemic into perspective. It is primarily a risk for pregnant women and their babies.
There have been cases in the United States that are from adults who have traveled to areas when Zika is common. There are several states where the virus has been identified, but always in people who contracted it outside of the US.
Wasn't this case in Dallas sexually transmitted, though?
Although we anticipate that Zika will spread to the US, it will not be as bad as it has been in Central or South America, because we have better housing, screens, air conditioning, and mosquito control.
How is this virus different than other ones?
The virus is primarily spread by mosquitoes who bite infected individuals and then bit people who have not yet contracted the virus. So mosquito control is the best way to control the virus. Apparently there was a sexually transmitted case in Dallas, which does seem theoretically possible. The biggest risk would be to pregnant women who may contract the disease from having sex with someone who was bitten by an infected mosquito.
Zika is an Arbo virus, similar West Nile virus and other mosquito born viruses.
How can a person tell if he or she has contracted Zika? What are the symptoms?
Should a pregnant lady get checked out after any mosquito bite??
Right now recommendations are that anyone who traveled to infected areas be tested, but I suspect much of the US will soon be affected.
I suspect Zika virus testing may soon become standard for all pregnant women.
This virus is usually a very mild illness for adults and 80% of infected individuals never even felt sick. The primary risk is for pregnant women and their unborn babies.
When you write that much of the US will soon be affected, what do you mean by that?
The mosquito that transmits the Zika virus is the Aedes mosquito. It is common in many areas of the US, especially the South. And we are seeing an increasing number of adults who contracted the virus outside of the US return to the US. As the mosquito population grows this Spring and Summer, it seems likely that our Aedes mosquitos in the US will begin transmitting the virus.
If you are not pregnant or planning to become pregnant, the Zika virus holds very little risk for you, personally. If you contract the virus you may have very minor viral or cold-like symptoms. But the real risk is that you might transmit the virus to a pregnant person when you are bitten by a mosquito or have sexual intercourse with them.
Any word on a possible vaccine or cure for this virus?
The responsible thing to do is use mosquito repellent. But a shocking number of people in the US don't like using effective mosquito repellents because they feel they contain unnatural ingredients. The truth is that mosquito repellents that contain DEET are the most effective. DEET is safe and approved for use in pregnant women as long as you use it as instructed and don't eat it.
What is your advice to women who are trying to get pregnant or who are pregnant to avoid contracting Zika?
There are people around the world collaborating diligently to get a Zika vaccine made. At present there is none. But I am inspired by the story about the bird flu vaccine that was developed a few years ago. Scientists from around the world effectively collaborated and shared scientific notoriety to get the vaccine developed within a few months.
That's very hopeful about a possible vaccine.
At the end of this chat I will link to an article about mosquito repellents and safety. Also, an article about Zika virus.
If you are pregnant, I would talk to your health care provider about Zika testing. The recommendations for who to test are changing frequently as the epidemic grows.
Pregnant women and their sexual partners should also be diligent about mosquito control.
Pregnant women already have so much to worry about, so many thing they are told to avoid or be careful about during their pregnancy...It's unfortunate that a new danger is spreading.
I recommend having your property professionally sprayed with permetherin or other mosquito control agents, and wearing DEET containing repellent when outside.
Don't forget that the best way to wear mosquito repellent is on your clothing.
You can also treat your clothing with permethrin. You spray it on your clothes and it lasts six washes.
When I was pregnant with my second child I was in Malawi, where multi-drug resistant malaria is common. Because malaria is also a mosquito born illness, I practiced vigilant mosquito control. It worked! In 8 weeks I had only one mosquito bite, even through I was outdoor daily and worked in an open air hospital (no windows or screens). The trick was treating my clothing with permethrin and wearing DEET based mosquito repellent daily.
Hi Steve. Without testing it would be nearly impossible to know if you had Zika virus, as most people have only mild symptoms or don't even know they were sick. The best way to know is to get blood tests.
Congrats, Steve. The blood test should put your mind to ease.
You and your wife should both get blood tests. I would talk to your wife's OB and your primary care provider.
Congratulations to all of you!
So, if a person is exposed to Zika and contracts it once, do they have immunity?
Steve, it's important to note that most pregnant women who contract Zika virus during pregnancy have very healthy babies.
Aisha, to be honest, I am not completely sure of the answer to your question about immunity. I suspect that if you contract the virus once you will probably be immune for the rest of that season/year, but it is possible for the virus to mutate/change which would allow you to contract it more than once.
I recently got a mosquito repellent band with "natural essential oils" in it to prevent bites. What are your thoughts on such things?
Essential Oils can have some effectiveness in mosquito bite reduction, but they just don't compare in efficacy to repellents that contain DEET. Especially now that we have Zika virus, why would you use a repellent that will reduce your mosquito bites by 50% or so? You want a repellent that is more effective than that. I go into details about essential oils as insect repellents in my article linked below.
I was going to send it to my pregnant sister-in-law, but I won't now. Thanks for putting it in perspective.
I think one of the biggest problems we are going to have with Zika virus control in the US will be adults who don't want to use mosquito repellent or who fight government-based spraying for mosquitoes. Many people have concerns that these chemicals are toxic. But that safety profiles are really very reassuring. See my article on repellents below for details.
Great. This has been tremendously useful information. We have time to take a reader submitted question on another topic..
Dear Mike, I am so glad to see how much you and your wife are invested in your daughter's life and how much you love her! There is no one right way to help a child make friends. Please know that shyness is actually a genetic trait. Your daughter was probably born that way. Although you and your wife can make gentle suggestions to help her have playdates, etc., she may well be a shy person her whole life. And that is OK.
Mike, your daughter is a busy little girl, who is getting plenty of socialization and opportunities to make friends. It's fine for her to be on the shy side! Some of us are and still have fulfilling relationships throughout our lives. I wouldn't feel pressured to schedule play dates right now.
I don't think there is any one right number of playdates that a kindergartner should have. 2 per month sounds quite reasonable for me. Also, it's reasonable to help a 5-year-old develop social skills and help and encourage them to have play dates. As they get older these things get more organic, but at age 5 kids need a lot of social guidance from teachers and parents.
She will probably find a friend she plays with more frequently than others. It's fine to invite her over. But she doesn't need a best friend at this age.
But I agree with Aisha, that even if she had zero playdates she would likely be fine. And she doesn't need a best friend in kindergarten. In fact, most schools and parents are promoting the idea that you can have lots of best friends.
All parents want their children to have friends and feel included. You guys are doing a great job!
Thank you everyone for joining us and we look forward to chatting again next month!