The World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika an International health emergency in February 2016. The mosquito-borne virus has spread to over 28 countries, including the United States. Pregnant women are especially at risk as the virus is suspected of causing microcephaly or smaller than normal head size in infants. Because of the risk, pregnant women or women who want to become pregnant are advised not to travel to counties where the threat of Zika is high.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) radar has expanded its travel advisory to the following 28 countries and territories: American Samoa, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Cape Verde, Colombia, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, US territory Costa Rica, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Martin, Samoa, Suriname, Tonga, U.S. Virgin Islands and Venezuela
The outbreak in Brazil led to reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome and pregnant women giving birth to babies with birth defects and poor pregnancy outcomes.
Below are frequently asked questions and responses about the Zika virus.
Disease Q & A
What is Zika?
Zika is a disease caused by Zika virus that is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito.
Who is at risk of being infected?
Anyone who lives in or travels to an area where Zika virus is found and has not already been infected with Zika virus can get it from mosquito bites.
What countries have Zika?
Specific areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing are often difficult to determine and are likely to change over time. If traveling, please visit the CDC Travelers' Health site at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/zika-travel-information for the most updated travel information.
How is Zika transmitted?
Zika is primarily transmitted through the bite of infected Aedes mosquitoes. These mosquitoes are aggressive daytime biters and they can also bite at night. The virus is known to be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her unborn child.
To date, there are no reports of infants getting Zika virus through breastfeeding. Because of the benefits of breastfeeding, mothers are encouraged to breastfeed even in areas where Zika virus is found.
Spread of the virus through blood transfusion and sexual contact have been reported.
What are the symptoms of Zika?
About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika will get sick. The illness is usually mild. For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected.
The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Symptoms typically begin 2 to 7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
How is Zika diagnosed?
See your healthcare provider if you develop symptoms. If you have recently traveled, tell your healthcare provider.
Your healthcare provider may order blood tests to look for Zika or other similar viral diseases like dengue or chikungunya.
What should I do if I have Zika?
Treating your symptoms:
Get plenty of rest.
Drink fluids to prevent dehydration.
Take medicine such as acetaminophen to reduce fever and pain.
Do not take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
If you are taking medicine for another medical condition, talk to your healthcare provider before taking additional medication.
What is the treatment for Zika?
There is no vaccine or specific medicine to treat Zika virus infections.
Are you immune for life once infected?
Health officials believe that once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections.
What can people do to prevent becoming infected with Zika?
There is no vaccine to prevent Zika. The best way to prevent diseases spread by mosquitoes is to protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites. Health officials recommend wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants and using Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered mosquito repellent.
Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside. Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months of age.