Various factors have made it particularly difficult to prevent the spread of the Zika virus and reduce its impact. Here are just a few:
Further research is needed to confirm whether additional modes of Zika transmission exist. While the role of Aedes mosquitoes in transmitting Zika is documented and well-understood, evidence about other transmission routes is limited. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, although rare, a mother already infected with the virus near the time of delivery can pass it on to her newborn around the time of delivery. It is also possible that Zika could be passed from mother to fetus during pregnancy, through a blood transfusion, and through sexual contact, but additional research is needed to confirm whether these are in fact modes of Zika virus transmission.
Pregnant women who receive a diagnosis of microcephaly in their fetus have limited options due to the strict abortion laws in many Zika virus-affected countries. Some countries in the region, like El Salvador, continue to prohibit abortion in cases of fetal malformation, including microcephaly. And while the procedure is permitted under those circumstances in other countries, like Colombia, many women are not aware of their right to a safe and legal abortion. In either instance, a woman who decides to have an abortion due to a microcephaly diagnosis may be driven to do so under unsafe and potentially life-threatening conditions.
The views reflected in this expert column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law or Georgetown University. This blog is solely informational in nature, and not intended as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed and retained attorney in your state or country.