SALT LAKE CITY — An LDS general authority who helps oversee the church's missionary department said the Zika outbreak and its impact on Mormon missionaries has "our utmost attention."
The groups at greatest risk from the mosquito-borne illness labeled a global health emergency on Feb. 1 by the World Health Organization are pregnant women and fetuses, categories irrelevant to LDS missionaries, who are single, said Elder Gregory A. Schwitzer, assistant executive director in the church’s Missionary Department.
Only 1 in 5 people infected by Zika exhibit symptoms — rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint aches and fever. The real danger is the risk of microcephaly in unborn children infected during pregnancy. The 20,000 young Mormon women serving missions today are single and celibate.
"There is no evidence to support that subsequent pregnancies or fertility (are) affected when the woman has fully recovered," said Elder Schwitzer, a physician who specialized in emergency medicine and internal medicine.
The church has had missionaries in areas with mosquito-borne illnesses for decades. The church emphasizes prevention, and those who follow instructions "are at a significantly lower risk of infection from Zika or any other mosquito-borne illnesses," he said.
"The well-being and safety of missionaries is truly our first priority."
To read the entire Q&A with Elder Schwitzer, see www.mormonnewsroom.org/missionary-department-zika-virus.