Zika Virus – What You Need to Know

Zika virus

The Zika virus is primarily transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, which are most active during the day. Because the symptoms of the virus often go undetected, many people may not realize they are infected. Although people very rarely die of Zika, it can cause permanent damage to unborn infants which gives pregnant women the most cause for concern (CDC).

In addition to the bite by Aedes mosquitos, Zika has proven to be transmitted through blood transfusion, sexual contact, and from mother to child through pregnancy.

Outbreaks of Zika virus have previously been recorded in tropical Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Outbreaks are now present in the subtropical Americas, beginning in Brazil in 2015 and spreading to other countries in South America, Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

Learn how to identify the virus and reduce the chances of contracting Zika virus:

• About 1 in 5 people who contract Zika will develop symptoms, and the illness is generally mild. Hospitalization or death are very rare.
• Symptoms of Zika infection typically begin 2 to 7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito and last several days to a week.
• Symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, headache, or conjunctivitis (red- or pink-eye).
• Zika virus usually remains detectable in the blood of an infected person for a week or longer.
• Zika virus is believed to be linked to some rare medical conditions, such as Guillain-Barre syndrome and myelitis, but large-scale studies to prove this connection have yet to be completed.

Pregnancy Concerns
Current scientific studies have found the following:
• Zika virus infection in a pregnant woman could affect the fetus at any stage of gestation.
• In an infected fetus, there is increasing evidence of a link to microcephaly, placental damage, central nervous system injury, slow growth, a large range of other birth defects, miscarriage and still birth.

The CDC currently recommends the following for pregnant women:

• Do not travel to areas with ongoing local transmission of Zika virus. However, if you do, report this information to your doctor.
• If a male partner has travelled to areas with Zika infection, either abstain from sex or use condoms during intercourse for the duration of the pregnancy.

There is no vaccine to prevent Zika infection. Instead, prevent mosquito bites by:
• Using screens on windows and doors and sleeping under mosquito netting if necessary.
• Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants and covering exposed skin.
• Using an EPA-registered insect repellant when outdoors.
• Use condoms and other contraception, especially for men in sexual contact with women who are pregnant.
• Postpone travel to areas where a Zika outbreak is growing.

• If you suspect you have been infected, immediately contact your healthcare provider.
• Do not take aspirin or other NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) until dengue can be ruled out.
• The CDC recommends taking acetaminophen or paracetamol to reduce fever and pain.
• Unfortunately, there are no specific medications used to treat the symptoms.
• Drink fluids to prevent dehydration.
• Get plenty of rest.
• If you know you have contracted Zika, avoid mosquito bites during the first week of your illness to limit spread of the disease.

Information about Zika virus disease is constantly evolving. For more information and current updates, please refer to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website at www.cdc.gov/zika/index.html.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has also launched a global response plan to aid the world’s response to the spread of Zika virus.