Chikungunya, Zika and Dengue: the danger of the tiger mosquito for pregnant women

With the arrival of the tiger mosquito to Spain, as well as to other countries around us such as France and Italy, we are attending the dissemination of tropical diseases that have been installed in our country.

The tiger mosquito (also called Aedes albopictus or Aedes aegypti) is the infection transmitter vector They can be serious for pregnant women with consequences for pregnancy, so you have to be very cautious at this stage to avoid bites. Babies and young children are also particularly vulnerable to infections.

Tiger mosquito: risk for pregnant women

During the summer, the tiger mosquito represents a true nightmare, especially for those who live in the Spanish Mediterranean basin, where it is usually concentrated.

This type of mosquito is potentially the carrier of three types of viruses that cause serious infections that until recently we did not know in Europe:

Zika virus

The mosquito, by biting a person with Zika, becomes infected and can transmit the infection when it bites another person. There is also evidence of other possible forms of transmission: sexually, by blood transfusions and, in pregnancy, from the mother to the fetus.

The most common symptoms are low or moderate fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, tiredness and headache. These symptoms appear 3 to 12 days after becoming infected.

Although the majority of pregnant women who have had Zika give birth to healthy babies, infection is associated with neurological malformations in newborns, and in particular microcephaly (cephalic perimeter at birth less than normal).

There is still no vaccine or specific treatment for Zika infection, but it is believed that having it could reduce the incidence of prenatal infections by at least 94 percent.

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Dengue

Dengue infection causes the onset of fever accompanied by headache of frontal predominance, retroocular pain plus pain in the joints and muscles, malaise and rash. It can also cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

Pregnant women who develop dengue infection most often experience contractions triggered by the infection in any trimester of pregnancy and, therefore, may increase the risk of premature delivery and abortion.

There are also investigations that relate dengue virus infection to an increase in congenital neurological abnormalities in the newborn and brain malformations. It is also associated with increased risk of low birth weight, prematurity and fetal distress,

Chikungunya

Recently the first cases of native transmission in Spain of this viral disease that is spreading rapidly have been recorded. The disease owes its name to a word of the Makonde language, from Mozambique, which means "the one who hunches over" and refers to the posture frequently taken by those affected by the joint pain it produces.

A mosquito bites an infected person and then transmits the virus by biting another person. The symptoms of chikungunya infection are: high fever, muscle and joint pain, headache, and in some cases vomiting and diarrhea.

According to PAHO, mothers who have chikungunya during pregnancy do not transmit the virus to their babies. However, maternal transmission to the newborn has been documented when the mother has fever just days before or at the time of delivery. Therefore, it is especially important to avoid bites when the delivery date approaches. Chikungunya is not transmitted through breast milk.

The manifestations of the infection appear in the newborn in the first week of life and include edema in the extremities, skin rashes, encephalitis and respiratory failure.

How to prevent tiger mosquito bites

Given the danger of the tiger mosquito, the only prevention we have is prevent its proliferation and of course, avoid bites, especially in pregnant women and infants and young children. We can do it with these measures:

  • Install window screens.

  • Use specific repellents, in the case of pregnant women those containing DEET or Diethyltoluamide (Although in the absence of evidence there are those who do not recommend it during the first quarter and at low concentrations in the second and third), icaridine, Citriodiol or IR3535.

They are also safe for those who are breastfeeding, as well as for children older than 2 months if they are used according to the instructions of the product, except the DEET that is contraindicated in children under 2 years.

In Spain, repellent products to be used must be authorized by the Ministry of Health (look for the number on the label). Products containing lemon eucalyptus oil should not be used in children under 3 years.

  • Cover your skin with long sleeve and ankle-tight pants.

  • Watch that no standing water in the approximations.

  • Avoid water accumulations outside the houses.

  • Keep water tanks covered.

  • Uncover drains that are at risk of keeping standing water

  • Avoid having a container that can be filled with water in case of rain.

  • Properly maintain pools and ornamental fountains.

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Video: Preventing Aedes Mosquito-Borne Diseases with Dr. Ronald Rosenberg (March 2020).