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Conception During Low Mosquito Activity May Lower Zika Odds

Researcher suggests attempting pregnancy when mosquito activity is low to avoid birth defects

FRIDAY, July 29, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Women in Zika-affected countries might reduce their risk of infection during pregnancy by timing conception with periods of low mosquito activity, according to a perspective piece published July 28 in PLOS Biology.

Micaela Martinez, a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in New Jersey, looked at birth data from a number of countries. She estimated that planning conception during seasons with low mosquito activity for as few as 3 percent of all births could prevent Zika-related birth defects in thousands of babies. For example, this approach could reduce the risk for about 1,000 births a year in Puerto Rico, and more than 88,000 births a year in Brazil.

“Instead of telling women in these countries to not get pregnant, what if we take advantage of the fact that the virus can be avoided if pregnancy is aligned with a time of year when there are fewer mosquitoes?” Martinez said in a university news release. “All other animals time their reproduction to match favorable environmental conditions. Why couldn’t we?”

Martinez said she created a computer program that could help local officials, health care workers, or scientists pinpoint by calendar week when it’s safe for women in their region to conceive; however, more study of the seasonal patterns of the Zika virus is needed before any policy suggestions can be made.

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