Currently there is no vaccine for Zika (though one was just approved for clinical trials), and there is no treatment. When people talk about the response to the outbreak, they primarily talk about mosquito control and bug spray. One might think that medicine has no weapon to offer the average person to fight this disease right now. But that’s not true.
“We don’t know how to prevent Zika, but we do know how to prevent pregnancy,” says Christopher Zahn, the vice president of practice at The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
Birth control can’t keep you from getting Zika, but Zika in adults is not that bad. You get a fever, joint pain, a rash, and red eyes (if you get symptoms at all, which most don’t). Some adults do come down with the autoimmune syndrome Guillain-Barré, but while the exact percentage isn’t known, the risk of getting it seems very low. It’s not the adults who need the most protection. The greatest risk is for children born to mothers who get Zika while pregnant—miscarriage and a range of birth defects, including microcephaly, are possible. (As of Thursday, seven babies have been born in the U.S. with Zika-related birth defects.)
“If effective contraception is provided and people use it, it’s theoretically 100 percent effective in prevention of those ultimate outcomes,” Zahn says. “The best way to avoid a potentially [affected] fetus is by avoiding pregnancy.”