What is Zika virus? Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that is currently causing a large outbreak primarily in Central and South America. While no locally transmitted cases of Zika have been reported in the continental U.S., cases have been found in returning travelers and these cases could lead to the local spread of the virus in some areas of the U.S.
What are the symptoms of Zika virus? Only about 1 in 5 people with Zika virus will get symptoms of illness; because of this, many people may not realize they have been infected. If a person does develop symptoms, they’re usually mild and include fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis.
How does it spread? Zika virus is spread through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. Sexual transmission of Zika virus can occur, although there is limited data about the risk.
Who is most at risk for complications from Zika virus? Pregnant women are most at risk for complications from Zika virus. This is because there is a possible link between pregnant women who get the Zika virus and microcephaly in their babies. Microcephaly is a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected. This birth defect can result in seizures, intellectual disabilities, developmental delays, among other problems. Currently no vaccine or medication exists to prevent or treat Zika virus infection. Women who traveled to an area with ongoing Zika virus transmission during pregnancy should be evaluated for Zika virus infection and tested in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Interim Guidance.
How can pregnant women prevent Zika virus? Until more is known, and out of an abundance of caution, the CDC recommends special precautions for pregnant women or women trying to become pregnant:
- Pregnant women in any trimester should consider postponing travel to the areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Pregnant women who do travel to one of these areas should talk to their healthcare provider first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during their trip.
- Women trying to become pregnant should consult with their healthcare provider before traveling to these areas and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during their trip.
- Pregnant women should discuss their male partner’s potential exposures to mosquitoes and history of Zika-like illness with their healthcare provider.
What are some tips to avoid mosquito (bug) bites? Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus bite both indoors and outdoors, mostly during the daytime; therefore, it is important to ensure protection from mosquitoes throughout the entire day.
- Use an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellent.
- Follow product directions and reapply as directed.
- If using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
- Using an insect repellent is safe for pregnant women and nursing mothers.
- Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants and hats.
- Avoid woody and brushy areas with high grass, brush, and leaves and standing water.
How can men prevent Zika transmission to their pregnant partners? The following interim guideline from the CDC (released 2/5/16) applies to men who live in or have traveled to areas with active Zika virus transmission:
- Men who reside in or have traveled to an area of active Zika virus transmission who have a pregnant partner should abstain from sexual activity or use condoms during sex for the duration of the pregnancy.
- Men who reside in or have traveled to an area of active Zika virus transmission who are concerned about sexual transmission of Zika virus infection should abstain from sexual activity or use condoms.
Where can I get up-to-date information on Zika virus? Visit the CDC website on Zika for the most up-to-date information and guidance on Zika at CDC.gov.