Women the Government Targets for Zika

There have been reports this week of young children receiving the government’s first-ever service for pregnant and breastfeeding women to learn how to recognize and prevent the Zika virus, and some of the women interviewed said it changed their lives for the better.

At the University of Miami in Miami, Daphne Minturo, 37, was three months into her pregnancy when doctors found that the fetus had a hole in the brain, called microcephaly. “We tried everything we could to treat it,” said Ms. Minturo, adding that she had not wanted to get the kind of pills that a doctor might prescribe. “I said, ‘Let’s go to the doctor.’ That’s how I found out about this. I couldn’t believe it.”

Jacqueline Perez, 32, did not know about the Zika clinic in Miami at the time, but she signed up as soon as she got pregnant in 2016. She said the experience has made her better prepared for motherhood, and also helped her beat a body-image challenge. “They gave us really cool information, about everything from having sex for the first time to spacing births,” she said. “When I found out that I was having children, I had some thoughts of putting on more weight, like something to maybe hide in my closet. But now that I think about it, I’m glad I signed up.”

Ms. Perez and Ms. Minturo said they attended two clinics in Miami and one in Tallahassee, the state capital, designed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In all, women between 15 and 40 were given either a pill or a nasal spray containing a Brazilian company’s GMO-free ingredient, which includes ingredients derived from the bark of the Amazonian tree and seems to stimulate the body’s natural defenses against the Zika virus.

Other than the drug delivery, both women said they found the clinics to be basic and consisted of materials they had already seen in other publications. Still, they said, the idea that the CDC was even giving them an education on the virus and how to prevent Zika infection was a relief. “All these women on the other side of the glass know what we’re facing because they’re on it for their children,” Ms. Perez said. “It kind of gives them a break.”

On Wednesday, two vaccine-prevention groups called the program a success.

“We were totally surprised,” said Stephen Blumberg, program manager for the CDC’s infection prevention and control branch, who was on site at the free clinics. “We had a heavy reach-out to pregnant women that were pregnant, and we didn’t really anticipate what they were going to end up with.”

Ms. Minturo, who has three daughters, said she had been anxious about getting pregnant after a miscarriage but was grateful that she had been trained about the risks of Zika.

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