Pregnant Mom's Guide to the Zika Virus Risk & Cord Blood Banking

Miami, here we come?

Your flight and hotel have been booked for months. You didn’t even know you were pregnant when you made your getaway plans. And boom. Public Service Announcement. As of August 17, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a warning, CDC travel alerts, for people living in or traveling to Miami’s Wynwood district or Miami Beach. The World Health Organization (WHO) is recommending that women who are pregnant in any trimester should talk to their physicians and consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is active. So if you’re pregnant, how worried should you be about Zika?

Here’s what we know about Zika

Zika is a virus spread primarily through mosquito bites, but it can also be transmitted through sexual contact. For everyone other than pregnant moms, the virus poses only a tiny risk. Per the CDC, only one out of five people infected with the virus will develop flu-like symptoms that are usually mild. Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), a rare sickness of the nervous system, is associated with Zika; however, current CDC research reports that only a small percentage of people with the recent Zika virus will get GBS.

But it’s a different—and much more serious—situation if you are expecting, regardless of which trimester you are in. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects, including a condition where infants are born with smaller than average brains. It can lead to developmental delays, and vision and hearing complications and possibly be fatal to the baby.

What is a cord blood bank to do?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Cord Blood Association issued guidelines pertaining to donation of umbilical cord blood in order to help protect blood products from Zika virus transmission. Per the FDA, the birth mother seeking to donate umbilical cord blood should be considered ineligible if she has any of the following risk factors:
  1. Medical diagnosis of Zika infection at any point during that pregnancy.
  2. Residence in, or travel to, an area identified by the Center for Disease Control with active Zika transmission at any point during that pregnancy.
  3. Sex at any point during that pregnancy with a male who is known to have a medical diagnosis of Zika in the past six months or resides in or has traveled to an area with active Zika transmission within the past six months.

Cryo-Cell International’s health history questionnaire has been updated to screen donors to ensure we are identifying, per requirements, donations that have Zika risk. If you are identified as a risk, your stem cells will still be stored and available for your baby. If you do not have Zika risks, your stem cells are not at risk. Cryo-Cell takes extensive precautions to ensure safe storage of all units. All units are processed separately in a closed system. This means no chance of cross contamination during processing. The processing technicians are fully gowned with only their eyes exposed to the environment. Processing occurs in a class 7 cleanroom, under a biosafety cabinet ensuring the most contaminant-free processing area possible. The products are stored in a cryobag, which is placed in an overwrap, which is then placed in a metal cassette.

All units already cryo-preserved in storage at Cryo-Cell are in no way at risk for Zika contamination.

What is a pregnant mom to do?

If your travel plans are set in stone (or you reside in any of the areas where Zika transmission is present), there are certainly precautions you can take. You may not come home with much of a tan, but covering up with pants and long-sleeves is highly recommended. You could also use an EPA-approved insect repellent. Pregnant women who return from an area with the virus should consult healthcare providers about possibly getting tested, especially if they have any flu-like symptoms. Here is information provided by the CDC for people planning vacations.

Some degree of worrying is on a par for the course for moms and dads, so consider this an opportunity to get a bit of a head-start. But if you have any concerns or would like more information, speak to your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

For the most update information about Zika, refer to the CDC webpage.

Last Updated on: 10/02/2023 by Diane Paradise