• Pregnant Meghan Markle Is Likely to Take These Steps for Protection Against Zika

    There's no vaccine yet to protect pregnant women and their unborn babies from the Zika virus.
    by Rachel Perez .
  • Yes, the Internet called it all right when at least a month before it was officially announced, many followers of Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, began to wonder if she was pregnant especially after she wore the blue dress above to a charity gala last September 7.

    And the pregnancy speculation went into overdrive when she chose to wear this blue long coat, which she did not take off, at the royal wedding of Princess Eugenie, a cousin of her husband, Prince Harry. By the time Kensington Palace announced her pregnancy yesterday, October 15, everyone was going "I knew it!"

    Many people didn't believe the pregnancy rumors before it was announced because the couple were on a 16-day tour of Australia, Fiji, the Kingdom of Tonga and New Zealand. In fact, the announcement happened just a few hours after they landed in Sydney. They doubted the couple would endanger the duchess' condition by visiting Fiji and Tonga — the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States have advised against travel to both islands if you are pregnant.

    The reason? The CDC classifies Fiji and Tonga as "areas with risk of Zika infection." CNN reported that "WHO places Tonga in risk category 1, an area with new introduction or ongoing transmission, and Fiji in category 2, an area of evidence of the virus circulating before 2015 or ongoing transmission." It should be noted that the WHO Zika virus country classification scheme is under review and revision.

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    According to People Meghan and Prince Harry sought medical advice about Zika before finalizing their trip schedule. And by all accounts, they are still going ahead with their original itinerary. So is there really something to be worried about? Yes, but there are ways to minimize risks.

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    What is Zika and why are pregnant women most at risk

    The Zika virus is similar to dengue and chikungunya, as it is spread from one person to another by the same type of mosquitos. Studies have shown that the virus can also be passed on from male to female via sexual intercourse, and is also most likely spread through blood transfusion.

    Symptoms include rashes, red eyes, joint pains, and fevers. In 2015, South America and The Pacific Islands reported outbreaks of the virus and believed it to be the cause of an increasing number of babies born with microcephaly, a condition where a baby has an abnormally small head.

    Studies have also confirmed that when a pregnant woman is infected, the virus can be passed on to her unborn baby and indeed can cause not only microcephaly, but also miscarriage, stillbirth, and other birth defects and neurological conditions.

    There is still no vaccine to combat Zika.

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    How the pregnant royal can protect herself from Zika

    Here are some of the most recommended ways to protect against Zika from the CDC and WHO.

    Apply insect repellent.

    The WHO recommends pregnant women and their partners to use insect repellents that contain DEET (full chemical name N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide). It's the most effective against keeping mosquitoes away, until even four hours after application. It's safe for pregnant women, as recommended by the CDC.

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    Other ingredients to look for in insect repellents are KBR 3023 and IR 3535 (picaridin and icaridin), with both also tagged by the WHO as safe for pregnant. Always check the product label and follow instructions how to use them (i.e., when to reapply, if needed) for maximum protection.

    Wear protective clothing.

    Choose long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and if possible, clothes that are not too loose that a mosquito cannot fly in between skin and fabric and not too tight that a mosquito bite through. The CDC also suggests treating your clothing and gear with permethrin or buying pre-treated items.

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    Sleep in contained rooms.

    Sleep quarters should be in a screened-in or air-conditioned room. If not, they should use bed nets to keep mosquitoes away. Authorities should also make sure the places they will be visiting have been cleared of mosquito breeding grounds.

    Abstain from sex.

    The couple should also wear contraception such as a condom in case they'd want to get busy under the sheets. The virus can spread through unprotected sex. If there is no contraception, experts recommend abstaining from sex for at least six months or the entire duration of the pregnancy.

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