West Nile Virus and Breastfeeding
There are a few ways to transmit the West Nile virus, and breastfeeding is one of them. Based on a case in 2002, it appears that the West Nile virus can be transmitted through breast milk. Women who are breastfeeding and think they may have become infected with West Nile virus should contact their healthcare provider.
An Overview of West Nile Virus and BreastfeedingBased on a 2002 case in Michigan, it appears that transmission of the West Nile virus can occur through breast milk.
A new mother in Michigan contracted West Nile virus from a blood transfusion shortly after giving birth. Laboratory analysis showed evidence of West Nile virus in her breast milk. She breastfed her infant, and three weeks later, her baby's blood tested positive for West Nile virus. Because of the infant's minimal outdoor exposure, it is unlikely that the infection was acquired from a mosquito. The infant was most likely infected through breast milk. (The child is healthy and does not have symptoms of West Nile virus infection.)
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.
Women who are breastfeeding should take precautions to reduce their risk for West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne infections by:
- Avoiding mosquitoes
- Using protective clothing
- Using repellents containing DEET.
Repellents with DEET are safe for women who are breastfeeding.
Women who are breastfeeding and think they may have become infected with West Nile virus should contact their healthcare provider.