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Maternal Fetal Medicine Division’s Center for Zika Virus Testing and Consultative Services

Maternal Fetal MedicineDrs. Timofeev and Driggers

Our Expertise

While the impact of the Zika virus in the Washington, D.C. region is still unclear, Sibley's expertise is available for women concerned about exposure to Zika and its effects on fetal development. Maternal Fetal Medicine Division physicians Dr. Driggers and Dr. Timofeev notably diagnosed the first case of a fetus infected with the Zika virus in the United States and published their findings in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Services

Sibley's Zika Virus Testing and Consultative Services Center brings all the current resources and knowledge to patients in the Washington, D.C. region. Available services include:

  • Consulting services for referring physicians and patients seeking expert advice
  • Testing for Zika, including:
    • Blood or urine testing, as indicated to evaluate for evidence of Zika infection
    • Sonography – we perform the CDC-recommended detailed fetal ultrasound imaging study to evaluate for evidence of Zika infection
    • Amniocentesis to look for evidence of the Zika virus in the amniotic fluid
  • Counseling for patients exposed to Zika during pregnancy by genetic counselor Jennifer Razak
  • Coordination with your obstetrician to ensure you receive appropriate care

Throughout your pregnancy, our team will have detailed and ongoing discussions with you at every step in the process to empower you to make informed decisions that are best for you.

Men and women living in areas affected with Zika should discuss pregnancy planning with their healthcare providers. Sibley Maternal Fetal Medicine would be happy to sit down with you and your partner to discuss your plans.

To make an appointment with the Sibley Maternal Fetal Medicine Division, call 202-660-7180.

In the Media

Dr. Driggers' research on Zika has also been reported on by NPR, the Washington Post and USA Today.

About Zika

aedes mosquito closeup

Common Questions

As the risks of the Zika virus become more widely known, it can be hard to separate facts from fears (as well as what's still being researched). Dr. Rita Driggers, director of Sibley's Maternal Fetal Medicine department, responded to questions submitted by the public in a Facebook chat, and later elaborated on some of the issues in a short "As The Expert" video. See what she had to say about Zika.

Transmission of Zika

Zika virus is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes genus mosquito. These mosquitos are aggressive daytime biters, but they also bite at night. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. The illness is usually mild, with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon and no deaths have been reported.

Zika can also be sexually transmitted by men. In all known cases, the man had the Zika infection and reported having symptoms of Zika infection. It is not known if a woman can spread Zika virus to her sex partner or how long the virus remains in the semen.

Zika virus can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus, which can cause fetal brain abnormalities and small head (microcephaly). It is not known if Zika virus causes miscarriages or fetal death, or how likely it is that Zika infection will affect the fetus.

In the U.S. states and Washington, D.C., the proportion of persons who traveled to or moved from areas with active Zika virus transmission, received testing and who had confirmed Zika virus infection was significantly higher in symptomatic than asymptomatic persons. Evidence of acute Zika infection was found in 2.9% of symptomatic pregnant women and 0.3% of asymptomatic pregnant women. While it has been estimated that up to 80% of Zika infections are asymptomatic, 64% of pregnant women in the U.S and DC with confirmed travel-related Zika virus infection had at least one Zika virus-associated symptom, and approximately 99% of asymptomatic pregnant women who received testing did not have Zika virus infection. At this time, it is unknown what percentage of infected patients will have affected fetuses. From data available outside the US, estimates range from 1-29%.

For more information on Zika virus visit: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/. For information for pregnant women visit: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/pregnancy/index.html.

Preventing Zika

There is no vaccine to prevent, or medicine to treat, Zika. Travelers and their male partners can protect themselves from this disease by taking steps to prevent mosquito bites.

When traveling to countries where Zika virus or other viruses spread by mosquitoes have been reported:

  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellent
  • Wear long sleeves and pants
  • Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens
  • Sleep under a mosquito bed net if air conditioned or screened rooms are not available or if sleeping outdoors
  • Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated items (do not apply permethrin products directly to the skin)
  • If the male partner has traveled to or lives in a Zika endemic area, condoms or abstinence is recommended for the remainder of the pregnancy.

For a list of areas with active mosquito transmission of Zika visit: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/zika-travel-information. For more information on how to protect yourself from Zika virus visit: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/pregnancy/protect-yourself.html

Zika and Birth Defects

A positive Zika virus test does not necessarily mean that the baby will have birth defects. It is unknown how likely it is that Zika infection will affect the fetus. Studies have reported that some, but not all, babies born to women with positive Zika test results during pregnancy were born with microcephaly and other problems. At this time, it is unknown what percentage of infected patients will have affected fetuses. From data available outside the US, estimates range from 1-29%. Amniocentesis can be performed to look for the Zika virus in the amniotic fluid; however, a positive test does not mean that the baby will be affected and a negative test does not mean the baby won't be affected.

For more information on microcephaly, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/microcephaly.html.