You are here
Zika virus is spread through mosquitoes, particularly Aedes species mosquitoes. It can also be spread mother-to-baby during pregnancy or through unprotected sexual contact. Beginning in 2015 a large outbreak of Zika virus occurred in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. The CDC still recommends that pregnant women, or couples that are planning for pregnancy avoid travel to areas with ongoing Zika activity. The majority of people infected with Zika develop mild symptoms, or none at all. However, when Zika virus is passed from a pregnant mother to her unborn baby, severe brain defects, including microcephaly and other nervous system defects can occur. Preventing mosquito bites and protective sexual practices are the most important ways to reduce infection or risk of pregnancy complications.
Risk to Pregnancy
The Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. It can also be spread by a man to his male or female sex partners during vaginal, anal, or oral (mouth-to-penis) sex. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected. However, Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other severe fetal brain defects. Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections.
What are the symptoms of Zika virus?
Many people infected with Zika virus won’t have symptoms or will only have mild symptoms. The most common symptoms of Zika are:
Other symptoms include:
- Muscle pain
How long do symptoms last?
Zika is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected. Symptoms of Zika are similar to other viruses spread through mosquito bites, like dengue and chikungunya.
Should I be tested for Zika virus?
Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for about a week. See your doctor or other healthcare provider if you develop symptoms and you live in or have recently traveled to an area with Zika. Your doctor or other healthcare provider may order blood tests to look for Zika or other similar viruses like dengue or chikungunya. Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections.
When should I see my doctor or healthcare provider?
See your doctor or other healthcare provider if you have the symptoms described above and have visited an area with Zika, this is especially important if you are pregnant. Be sure to tell your doctor or other healthcare provider where you traveled.
How is Zika Diagnosed?
- To diagnose Zika, a doctor or other healthcare provider will ask about any recent travel and any signs and symptoms. A blood or urine test can confirm a Zika infection.
- See a doctor or other healthcare provider if you develop symptoms of Zika and live in or recently traveled to an area with Zika or had sex without a condom with a person who lives in or traveled to an area with Zika.
- If you are pregnant, you should see a doctor or other healthcare provider if you develop a fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). You should see a healthcare provider if you live in or recently traveled to an area with Zika or had sex without a condom with a person who lives in or traveled to an area with Zika, even if you do not have symptoms.
- The doctor or other healthcare provider may order blood or urine tests to look for Zika or other viruses like dengue or chikungunya.
- It is important that you make sure to receive your Zika test results even if you are feeling better.
Should I be tested if I was potentially exposed to Zika through sex?
- CDC recommends Zika virus testing for people who may have been exposed to Zika through sex if they also have Zika symptoms. Possible exposure to Zika virus from sex includes sex (oral, vaginal, or anal sex or the sharing of sex toys) without a condom with a partner who traveled to or lives in an area with Zika.
- A pregnant woman with possible exposure to Zika virus from sex should be tested even if she does not have symptoms.
- A blood or urine test can confirm Zika infection from sexual transmission; however, testing blood, semen, vaginal fluids, or urine is not recommended to determine how likely a person is to pass Zika virus through sex.
There is no specific medicine or vaccine for Zika virus.
- Treat the symptoms.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Drink fluids to prevent dehydration.
- Take medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or paracetamol to reduce fever and pain.
- Do not take aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) until dengue can be ruled out to reduce the risk of bleeding.
- If you are taking medicine for another medical condition, talk to your healthcare provider before taking additional medication.
If you think you may have or had Zika
Tell your doctor or healthcare provider and take these steps to protect others.
If you are caring for a person with Zika
Take steps to protect yourself from exposure to the person’s blood and body fluids (urine, stool, vomit). If you are pregnant, you can care for someone with Zika if you follow these steps.
- Do not touch blood or body fluids or surfaces with these fluids on them with exposed skin.
- Wash hands with soap and water immediately after providing care.
- Immediately remove and wash clothes if they get blood or body fluids on them. Use laundry detergent and water temperature specified on the garment label. Using bleach is not necessary.
- Clean the sick person’s environment daily using household cleaners according to label instructions.
- Immediately clean surfaces that have blood or other body fluids on them using household cleaners or and disinfectants according label instructions.