Zika Virus: What You Should Know

By now you’ve likely seen news reports about the Zika virus. It’s a virus that primarily spreads from the bite of mosquitoes that have already bitten a person who has the virus. Not every species of mosquito can carry the virus.

The virus was first seen in humans in Africa. It was first diagnosed in people in the Western Hemisphere in 2013. It was identified in Chile in 2014.

The current cases of Zika in the U.S. are seen in people who were bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus in areas where Zika is present (primarily Central and South America). They have then traveled to the U.S.

At this time, there are no reports of individuals who were bit by the mosquito that carries this virus in the U.S. There are no reports of mosquitoes carrying this virus in the U.S. The mosquito that can carry the disease is common in the U.S. only in Florida, along the Gulf Coast, and in Hawaii. However, it has been found as far north as Washington, D.C., in hot weather.

The virus is normally spread by mosquitoes, but there has been one report of possible spread through blood transfusion and one of possible spread through sex.

Zika Symptoms

In most cases of Zika, people have no symptoms. Only one in five will exhibit symptoms from the virus, which can include:

  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Muscle And Joint Pain (particularly of hands and feet)
  • Headache
  • Conjunctivitis

A severe case requiring hospitalization is uncommon. Deaths are rare.

If you’re pregnant and planning to travel to a tropical climate or Central or South America, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers specific guidance.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also offers the following general information:

Preventing Zika

  • No vaccine exists to prevent Zika virus disease.
  • Prevent Zika by avoiding mosquito bites.

When traveling to countries where Zika virus or other viruses spread by mosquitoes are found, take the following steps:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
  • Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. Follow label instructions.

If you have a baby or child:

  • Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months of age.
  • Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs, or cover crib, stroller and baby carrier with mosquito netting.

Adults: Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.

If you have questions about Zika, visit the CDC’s Zika Virus pages or see your health care provider.

Meet the Author

Angela Tonozzi, MD, MS is the System Director-Infection Prevention at Aurora Health Care in Elm Grove, WI.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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