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As Zika emerges as a danger to public health for women around the world, Planned Parenthood is providing women with two of the most critical tools to reduce pregnancy-related Zika complications: education and reproductive health care.

Across the country, Planned Parenthood health centers see 2.5 million patients every year and we are the nation’s largest provider of sex education. In Riverside County, we see about 40,000 patients every year and provide reproductive health education and information to thousands of women, men, and young people in schools and at community events. We are working with local health care providers and public health agencies to provide our four health centers in Riverside County with the most up-to-date information, so you can be informed about your health. Here are the top things you should know right now about Zika:

While it’s been spreading rapidly by mosquitos in countries across Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as in Puerto Rico, people who live in the continental United States are also contracting Zika, mostly due to travel. There have been nearly 1,000 travel and sexually-transmitted cases confirmed in the continental U.S., including 55 right here in California. There is no treatment or vaccine for Zika at this time.

If you’ve traveled to an area with active transmission of Zika, or had sex without a condom with a man who traveled to, or lived in, an area with active Zika, you should ask a doctor or nurse about getting tested. Planned Parenthood providers are available to screen you for Zika risk factors and refer you for testing if appropriate.

There is a lot the medical community still needs to determine about the Zika virus, but we do know it poses serious risks for pregnant women. When a fetus is exposed to the virus during pregnancy, Zika can cause microcephaly and other severe brain problems. It is also associated with impaired fetal growth, hearing loss in infants, and other complications for pregnant women, including miscarriage.

Planned Parenthood is one of the nation’s leading providers of high-quality, affordable health care and can help you find the best birth control for you. Birth control methods are not one-size-fits-all; different methods have different rates of effectiveness, risks, side effects, and cost. No matter your reasons, if you want to know more about your family planning options, our expert providers can help you decide what is best for you.

 The ability to decide if and when to have children has been considered basic health care long before this crisis.  But the fact that countless women around the world and in the U.S. do not have this ability is a long-standing public health concern that the Zika crisis makes impossible to ignore. Family planning is the primary strategy recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reduce Zika-related pregnancy complications. We shouldn’t have had to wait for the Zika crisis for our leaders to acknowledge the value of voluntary family planning. Family planning saves lives, promotes good health, and empowers women.

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