The World Health Organization has released guidance for physicians and other healthcare providers on how to care for pregnant women in areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.
“The guidance is intended to inform the development of national and local clinical protocols and health policies that relate to pregnancy care in the context of Zika virus transmission,” according to the document, released on March 2.
The WHO does not recommend testing all pregnant women in Zika endemic areas, but suggests that physicians consider offering a first-trimester ultrasound scan to all women presenting for antenatal care to accurately date the pregnancy and perform a basic fetal morphology assessment. Women should also be counseled to present early for treatment and diagnostic work-up if they develop any signs or symptoms of Zika virus infection, including conjunctivitis, joint pain, headache, muscle pain, and fatigue.
Pregnant women who have signs of infection or a history of Zika virus disease should be tested. The following steps can be taken to diagnose the disease:
• Using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction in maternal serum within 5 days of onset of symptoms.
• Urine analysis within 3 weeks after the onset of symptoms.
• Saliva analysis.
• Serological tests with immunoglobulin M antibodies from the fifth day following onset of symptoms.
The WHO also recommends routinely performing investigations to exclude syphilis, toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus, rubella, and herpes.
Later in the pregnancy, all women should be offered an 18-20 week anomaly scan to identify, monitor, or exclude fetal brain abnormalities.
Any pregnant women with possible Zika virus and fetal microcephaly and/or brain abnormalities should be referred for specialized care.
The WHO’s recommendations were produced under the agency’s emergency procedures and will remain valid until August, at which time the Department of Reproductive Health and Research at WHO Geneva will renew or update them as appropriate.
The complete guidance is available here.