What is it?
Zika virus is a virus transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (this mosquito is active during the day rather than dawn/dusk). These are the same mosquitoes that spread dengue and chikungunya viruses. Zika was, however, very recently also confirmed to have been spread via sexual contact with an infected individual. Only about 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus become ill.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes), muscle pain and headache. The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) for Zika virus disease is not known, but is likely to be a few days to a week. The illness is usually mild with symptoms resolving for most in several days to a week. Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for a few days but it can be found longer in some people.
Unfortunately, zika virus infection in pregnant women has been linked with birth defects such as microcephaly.
Where is the current Zika virus outbreak?
Prior to 2015, Zika was primarily found in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. In May of 2015, Zika incidence increased in Brazil and is now rapidly moving through Central America. Other than the confirmed sexual transmission noted above, Zika in the U.S. had been found only in returning travelers from areas where Zika is flourishing.
What can you do?
There is no vaccine so taking insect precautions is currently the best way to protect yourself from Zika virus infection.
To avoid mosquito bites:
- Wear light-colored, long sleeves and long pants during outdoor activities
- Use insect repellants containing DEET, Picaridin, or Oil of lemon eucalyptus. If using sunscreen and insect repellant, put on the insect repellant last.
- Use clothes or outdoor equipment treated with permethrin
- Use screening, netting, and AC when possible
- Avoiding travel to high risk areas while pregnant
- Use condoms regularly (to avoid pregnancy while in high incidence areas and prevent spreading virus via sexual contact.)
If you return from an area of Zika outbreak and develop signs and symptoms of the disease, please see a health professional.
For more information see www.cdc.gov