Zika is a virus. Most people infected with Zika have no symptoms. When symptoms are present they are similar to what you might expect with the flu or Strep: body aches, red eyes, fever, rash. There is no specific medicine to treat a Zika infection or vaccine to prevent infection. The infection is rarely serious and even more rarely fatal. Treatment is supportive: rest, hydration, fever control with acetaminophen, etc. Zika is not new. It was first identified in Africa in 1947.
What is new?
Zika is now being identified in many more locations outside Africa. Zika has now been proven to cause birth defects. The main danger currently identified with Zika is that it can harm pregnancies. This includes birth defects such as microcephaly (a baby born with a small head).
How is Zika Spread?
- Mosquito bites
- Specifically, the Aedes mosquito which can be found in the Southeastern United States
- Sexually (vaginal, anal or oral)
- Blood transfusion (rare)
How Can You Avoid a Zika Infection?
Protect yourself from mosquito bites. Wear long sleeves and long pants. Use an EPA registered insect repellent (read all the directions about application and avoid altogether in children younger than 2 months).
Unless absolutely necessary, avoid travel to any location where mosquito transmission of Zika has been identified. Some of these areas include: certain regions in Mexico, Central America, most of South America and the Caribbean. Check the CDC website for up to date travel information.
If you or your sexual partner have been to, or are currently visiting, any location with a Zika travel warning you should take the following precautions:
- Avoid any sexual activity while in the area or use a properly placed condom during every sexual encounter.
- For 8 weeks after leaving the area, you should either avoid any sexual activity or use a properly placed condom during every sexual encounter.
If you or your sexual partner have been to any location with a Zika travel warning, and you had any symptoms such as fever, body aches, rash or red eyes:
- You should avoid any sexual activity for 6 months or use a properly placed condom during every sexual encounter.
Most people infected with Zika will never even know they had the virus. When symptoms are present they usually include: fever, body aches, red eyes and rash. The main danger currently identified with Zika virus infection is the potential harm to any pregnancy. The virus is spread by mosquito bites, sexually and potentially blood transfusion.
Learn more about Zika from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.