The Zika virus poses an international public health threat. Zika virus is transmitted primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. As temperatures rise, Aedes species mosquitoes may bring local outbreaks of Zika virus to the United States.
Men can transmit Zika virus sexually to their partners. Women can pass Zika virus to their fetus during pregnancy. Congenital Zika infection causes microephaly and other severe fetal brain abnormalities.
Low-income women of color are at highest risk for unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, with very high prevalence in the southeastern US — the same area most likely to be affected by local Zika outbreaks. Women who do not plan pregnancy in the near future must have access to the best birth control available. Women who are trying to conceive need education about protecting themselves from Zika. Pregnant women need information about Zika transmission, symptoms, testing, and risks — and those who have Zika infection need unimpeded access to surveillance, options counseling and abortion services to the full extent allowable by law. Infants with congenital Zika virus need access to developmental evaluation and services. Some of the areas at highest risk for local Zika outbreaks have limited access to contraception, severe state restrictions on abortion services, and poor access to all types of care for insured people. This unfortunate convergence of factors makes for a tragedy in waiting.
The public health response in the U.S. focuses mainly on mosquito control. A more vigorous and appropriate response to Zika should include full access to contraception, prenatal care, options counseling, abortion care, and pediatric developmental services.
Tepper NK, Goldberg HI, Vargas Bernal MI, et al. Estimating contraceptive needs and increasing access to contraception in response to the Zika virus disease outbreak – Puerto Rico, 2016. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 65 (12): 311-314.
Peterson EE, Polen KND, Meaney-Delman D, et al. Update: Interim guidance for health care providers caring for women of reproductive age with possible Zika virus exposure – United States, 2016. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 65(12): 315-322.
Dasgupta S, Reagan-Steiner S, Goodenough D, et al. Patterns in Zika virus testing and infection, by report of symptoms and pregnancy status – United States, January 3-March 5, 2016. Morbidity and Mortality Weeklyn Report. 65(15): 395-399.
The Reproductive Health Access Project does not accept funding from pharmaceutical companies. We do not promote specific brands of medication or contraception. The information in the Contraceptive Pearls is unbiased, based on science alone.