I have received several questions about the Zika virus. Families are concerned about the virus, its transmission, symptoms and complications. Although the Zika virus investigation is evolving on a daily basis, I believe it is important for families to understand some basic facts about this illness.
Zika Virus Disease and Transmission
- Zika was discovered in 1947 and was named after the Zika forest in Uganda.
- The Zika virus disease (Zika) is spread to people through the bite of a mosquito. Specifically, the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes have been identified as the primary carrier of the virus. There is a evidence to suggest that Zika may be spread through sexual contact.
- There are currently CDC travel notices for Zika transmission in the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, Pacific Islands and South America. Zika in the US is from travelers from a high risk area. Zika in the US is not the result of mosquito bites.
Zika Symptoms and Diagnosis
- Individuals infected with Zika experience mild cold symptoms such as fever, rash, joint pain and eye redness/eye discharge for 7 days.
- Zika typically does not cause a severe illness or death.
- Zika virus infection should result in life-long immunity to the virus.
- Zika is diagnosed by history of travel to a high risk area, clinical exam and blood work specific for the virus. Lab work for Zika is being coordinated by state health departments.
Zika Treatment and Prevention
- Zika is managed similar to other viral illnesses with rest, fluids and acetaminophen for fever and pain.
- Zika is prevented by avoiding mosquito bites. Adults and children (older than 2 months) are encouraged to use bug spray (EPA registered). Adults and children should wear long sleeve shirts and pants. Families should stay in air conditioned buildings or buildings with window and door screens.
- There is no vaccine for Zika
Zika and Pregnancy
- Zika can be spread from a pregnant mother to her fetus.
- Zika infection during pregnancy has been linked to a serious brain defect called microcephaly.
- Women that are pregnant or may become pregnant should delay travel to areas with Zika.
- If a pregnant woman has a male partner that traveled to a high risk area for Zika, the man should where a condom during sexual intercourse throughout the pregnancy or abstain from sexual activity. This is to avoid sexual transmission of Zika to the pregnant mother and fetus.