Zika Virus is a disease transmitted to people by mosquitoes. Those who get infected often don’t show any symptoms, however, the effect of Zika on pregnant women is causing concern.
Although not yet scientifically proven, there is a real worry that contracting Zika during pregnancy leads to the birth defect, microcephaly. This causes babies to be born with a very small head and potential brain damage, which is a heart-breaking start to life.
So great is the concern about Zika’s impact on babies, that Pope Francis has now indicated that contraception may be used to avoid pregnancy in Zika-affected areas. This represents a softening of the Roman Catholic Church’s ban on contraception. Pope Francis said that, “avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil” and that in some cases, using contraception may be the “lesser evil”.
However, he did not condone abortion as a response to Zika fears, labelling it a “crime” akin to mafia killings.
Women in areas like Central America, South America and the Pacific are the most at risk. There have not yet been any reported cases of women being infected with Zika in Australia. However, there have been cases of a pregnant Queenslander and Victorian contracting Zika while overseas.
Unfortunately, there is no vaccine for Zika and if you are pregnant, it’s advised that you don’t travel to areas where Zika is found.
For more info about Zika transmission and prevention, see this Australian Government Bulletin.