The good news is Zika's symptoms are easy to identify. The bad news? Even if infected, you may not experience them.
At least 279 pregnant U.S. women have tested positive for Zika, so many more want to know: What are the symptoms? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus causes "fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache." The symptoms are no different in pregnant women than they are in anyone else. But here's some scary news: Zika's symptoms don't always present...which means you could have the virus and not feel a thing.
In fact, most people infected with Zika won't experience symptoms, according to the CDC. And even if a pregnant woman is symptom-free, if she carries the virus, her fetus is still at a higher risk for microcephaly, a disorder that causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads and incomplete brain development.
So, what should pregnant women who don't experience Zika symptoms do? For starters, they should focus on prevention. Protection against mosquito bites is incredibly important, especially if you live in or have travelled to an area where Zika is active. There's no vaccine or course of treatment for Zika, so the CDC recommends that pregnant women avoid the virus whenever possible.
If you've already visited an area with Zika, you should be tested two to 12 weeks after your return—and yes, this advice holds true even if you don't have any symptoms, as Zika proteins may still be present in your system. On the flip side, if you test negative for Zika and then begin experiencing symptoms, it's crucial that you get tested again. Pregnant women who do have Zika should be monitored closely throughout pregnancy.