West Nile Virus and Breastfeeding

In 2002, there was a case of transplacental (mother-to-child) transmission of the West Nile Virus reported. However, due to the limited number of cases reported, it is still impossible to tell what risks infections during pregnancy pose to the unborn child.

West Nile Virus and Pregnancy

The 2002 reported case of transplacental transmission of the West Nile virus resulted in the child having the West Nile virus infection at birth, as well as severe medical problems. However, according to Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it cannot be said for certain whether these problems were caused by West Nile Virus Infection or were due to other causes. The CDC and local health departments started a registry to monitor birth outcomes among women with West Nile virus illness in pregnancy.

In the same year, there were three other expectant mothers who were infected by the West Nile Virus were tested and analyzed. None of these resulted in the infants having the infection at birth. There was one more case of a pregnant mother infected with the virus, but it there was no way to tell whether this resulted in tranplacental transmission of the virus because the testing was incomplete.

From 2003-2004, there were 77 expectant women identified by the registry who acquired the West Nile Virus Infection. The results were: 71 delivered live infants. 2 had elective abortions and 4 miscarried in the first trimester.

West Nile Virus and Breastfeeding

In 2002, there was a reported case in Michigan where a mother contracted the West Nile Virus from a blood transfusion not long after giving birth. Her child was healthy. She breastfed her child, but 3 weeks later, the baby’s blood tested positive for West Nile Virus. Laboratory tests showed evidence of West Nile Virus her breast milk. Due to the child’s minimal exposure outdoors, it is unlikely that the infection came from a mosquito.

Protection from West Nile Virus

It is safe for women to use mosquito repellents to keep mosquitoes away. There have been no reports of adverse effects following the use of repellents (containing DEET or picaridin) in pregnant or breastfeeding women.

For breastfeeding women who are symptomatic for West Nile virus or are living in an area of West Nile virus transmission, the CDC says: Because the health benefits of breastfeeding are well established, and the risk for West Nile virus transmission through breastfeeding is unknown, the new findings do not suggest a change in breastfeeding recommendations.

Of course if you are lactating and are sick or having trouble breastfeeding, consult your doctor immediately.

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