BROWNSVILLE – The Centers for Disease Control said the best way to test an unborn baby for the Zika virus is using the placenta. The Cameron County Health Department said it is now the most reliable way to test for the virus.
It’s because an expectant mother may not test positive for the virus from one week to the next. Evidence of the virus may stay in the placenta allowing for early detection.
Professionals said the Zika virus strikes a developing baby early, and the sooner someone knows about it the sooner they can treat the symptoms.
Rebecca Rivera is five months into her pregnancy. She said she works out to help her.
When she goes out to exercise, she wears repellant, long pants, long sleeves and socks. She said she avoids sunrise and sunset, peak times for mosquitoes.
“You don’t wanna cause any damage to your baby. You wanna have a safe, healthy baby. So you’re going to do everything you can to make sure that happens,” she said.
The pregnancy changed her lifestyle as did the news of Zika cases in the Rio Grande Valley. The effects of Congenital Zika Syndrome for newborns include damage to hearing, eyesight and development stages.
Not to mention microcephaly – the high profile symptom linked to a Zika infection. The damage can start at conception.
Either the mother or father can be the source of the infection. That’s why McAllen Health Director Josh Ramirez urges couples to get tested before a pregnancy. Testing during a pregnancy can give doctors a heads up to treat any emerging symptoms.
“There’s no cure but there’s treatment that can improve the conditions that how the baby can be born, to grow in the embryo,” Ramirez said.
It does give a baby a fighting chance.
“Instead of guessing, at least they have some idea,” he said.
As week 24 approaches, Rivera keeps monitoring her progress at every doctor’s visit.
“Baby’s growing normally and there hasn’t been any signs of abnormalities that would make them suspect or would make them think that I would need to get checked again,” Rivera said.
She’s doing what she can to avoid a Zika infection that could impact her baby’s life.
Ramirez said the treatments methods to address Zika symptoms are all very new. There’s no cure, but there’s hope to improve a baby’s wellbeing.