The news media is full information on the Zika virus, which is spread by mosquitos and has become an epidemic in some of the South and Central American countries. When the virus infects a patient during early pregnancy, it can produce microencephalopathy in a gestating fetus. Microencephalopathy is a neurodevelopmental disorder that results in an abnormally small head.
The mosquito that is most likely to transmit the Zika virus tends to feed during the day, rather than at dawn and sunset, as do many other species of mosquito.
Zika has been most frequently reported in Brazil, but we are beginning to see a few cases here in the United States, contracted by patients who traveled to one of the countries where Zika is prevalent.
The World Health Organization has now declared Zika a world health emergency.
At present, there is no treatment for the virus. In the U.S., blood donations are no longer being accepted from those who have traveled in areas where Zika is an epidemic.
With ultrasound technology, it should be possible to check pregnant women for the presence of microencephalopathy in utero. My suggestion is that if a fetus shows microencephalopathy, blood tests should be conducted to determine if there is the Zika infection.
But even without confirmation of Zika infection, the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) during the last trimester of the pregnancy might be of value.
HBOT is used extensively in Russia for women who have had a miscarriage; they are put on the therapy for their third trimester.
In the U.S., horses that have had a miscarriage and do not have successful pregnancies are put on HBOT for the third trimester. With the help of the therapy, they are developing and having normal fetuses.
The use of HBOT, therefore, might help prevent microencephalopathy from a Zika infection. It would certainly be worth a try, as HBOT has been effective in treating viral meningitis and other infectious processes.
Because there is no other treatment currently available, in my opinion HBOT would certainly be worth a try.
Posts by William Maxfield, M.D.
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