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Zika virus disease

Definition

Zika is a virus passed to humans by the bite of infected mosquitoes. Symptoms include fever, joint pain, rash, and red eyes (conjunctivitis).

For the most up-to-date information, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) website at: www.cdc.gov/zika/.

Alternative Names

Zika virus infection; Zika virus; Zika

Causes

The Zika virus is named after the Zika forest in Uganda, where the virus was first discovered in 1947.

HOW ZIKA CAN SPREAD

Mosquitoes spread the Zika virus from person to person. Mosquitoes acquire the virus when they feed on infected people. They then spread the virus when they bite other people.

The mosquitoes that spread Zika are the same type that spread dengue fever and chikungunya virus. These mosquitoes usually feed during the day.

While rare, Zika can spread from a mother to her baby in the uterus (in utero) or at the time of birth. It is not spread through breastfeeding.

There have been reports of Zika spreading through blood transfusion.

A man with Zika can spread the disease to his sex partners. The virus remains in semen longer than in blood, but it is unknown how long Zika may remain in semen. No one knows if women with Zika can pass the disease to their sex partners.

WHERE ZIKA IS FOUND

Before 2015, the virus was found mainly in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. In May 2015, the virus was discovered for the first time in Brazil.

It has now spread to many states and countries in:

  • Caribbean Islands
  • Central America
  • Mexico
  • South America

The virus was confirmed in Puerto Rico in December 2015.

The disease has been found in travelers coming to the United States from affected areas. However, the virus has not yet spread from one person to another in the United States through a mosquito. Many experts believe that it is likely that this will happen soon.

Symptoms

Only about 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus will have symptoms. This means that you can have Zika and not know it.

Symptoms tend to occur 2 to 7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. They include:

  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Joint pain
  • Red eyes (conjunctivitis)
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache

Symptoms are usually mild, and last for a few days to a week before going away entirely.

Exams and Tests

If you have symptoms of Zika and have recently traveled to an area where the virus is present, your health care provider may do a blood test to check for Zika. You also may be tested for other viruses spread by mosquitoes, such as dengue and chikungunya.

Treatment

There is no treatment for Zika. Like the flu virus, it has to run its course. You can take steps to help relieve symptoms:

  • Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) to relieve pain and fever.
  • DO NOT take aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), or any other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory until your provider confirms that you do not have dengue. These medicines can cause bleeding in people with dengue.

Possible Complications

In Brazil, there has been an increase in the number of babies born with a smaller-than-normal head from mothers infected with Zika. This rare condition is called microcephaly. It occurs when the brain does not grow as it should in the womb or after birth.

Because of the increase in this birth defect, there is believed to be a possible link between mothers with Zika infection and babies born with microcephaly. Although this association is not yet proven, many experts believe it is real. Intense research is currently being done to understand how the virus may spread from mothers to unborn babies and how the virus may affect babies.

Some people infected with Zika have later developed Guillain-Barré syndrome. It is unclear why this may occur.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you develop symptoms of Zika. Let your provider know if you have traveled recently in an area where the virus is spread. Your provider may do a blood test to check for Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses.

Call your health care provider if you or your partner has been to an area where Zika is present and you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant.

Prevention

There is no vaccine to protect against Zika. The best way to avoid getting the virus is to avoid getting bit by mosquitoes.

The CDC recommends that all people traveling to areas where Zika is present take steps to protect themselves from mosquito bites.

  • Cover up with long sleeves, long pants, socks, and a hat.
  • Use clothing coated with permethrin.
  • Use insect repellent with DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol. When using sunscreen, apply insect repellent after you apply sunscreen.
  • Sleep in a room with air conditioning or with windows with screens. Check screens for large holes.
  • Remove standing water from any outside containers such as buckets, flower pots, and birdbaths.
  • If sleeping outside, sleep under a mosquito net.

The CDC makes these recommendations for women who are pregnant:

  • Consider postponing travel to any area where the Zika virus occurs.
  • If you must travel to one of these areas, talk to your doctor first and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during your trip.
  • If you are pregnant and have traveled to an area where Zika is present, tell your health care provider. Your provider will evaluate you for infection with the Zika virus.
  • If your partner has recently traveled to an area where Zika is present, abstain from sex or use condoms correctly every time you have sex for the entire time of your pregnancy. This includes vaginal, anal, and oral sex (mouth-to-penis or fellatio).

The CDC makes these recommendations for women who are trying to become pregnant:

  • Talk to your doctor about your plans to become pregnant and the risk of Zika virus infection before you travel.
  • Strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during your trip.
  • After traveling to an area where Zika is present, you should wait 8 weeks after your last exposure before attempting to become pregnant.
  • If you have had the Zika virus, you should wait 8 weeks after you were first infected before attempting to become pregnant.
  • If your partner has traveled to an area where Zika is present, but has no symptoms of Zika, you should wait 8 weeks after the last date of his exposure to attempt to become pregnant.
  • If your partner has been diagnosed with Zika, you should wait at least 6 months before attempting to become pregnant. 

Zika can't be spread after the virus has passed from the body. However, it's unclear how long Zika may remain in a man's semen.

Areas where the Zika virus occurs are likely to change, so be sure to check the CDC website for the most recent list of countries affected and for the latest travel advisories.

If you get Zika, try to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes so you do not pass the virus to others.

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Zika Virus. For Health Care Providers: Clinical Evaluation and Disease. Updated January 15, 2016. www.cdc.gov/zika/hc-providers/clinicalevaluation.html. Accessed January 19, 2016.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Zika Virus: Geographic Distribution. Updated January 19, 2016. www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/index.html. Accessed January 19, 2016.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Zika Virus: Prevention. Updated February 5, 2016.   www.cdc.gov/zika/prevention/index.html. Accessed February 8, 2016.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Zika Virus. Questions and Answers: Zika virus infection (Zika) and pregnancy. Updated February 7, 2016. www.cdc.gov/zika/pregnancy/question-answers.html. Accessed February 8, 2016.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Zika Virus: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment. Updated January 15, 2016. www.cdc.gov/zika/symptoms/index.html. Accessed January 19, 2016.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Zika Virus: Transmission. Updated February 5, 2016. www.cdc.gov/zika/transmission/index.html. Accessed February 8, 2016.

Oster AM, Brooks JT, Stryker JE, et al. Interim Guidelines for Prevention of Sexual Transmission of Zika Virus -- United States, 2016. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Early Release/February 5, 2016/65(5);1-2. www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6505e1er.htm?s_cid=mm6505e1er_w.htm. Accessed February 8, 2016.

Pan American Health Organization. Questions and Answers: Zika and pregnancy. Updated January 14, 2016. www.paho.org/hq/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11552&Itemid=41672&lang=en. Accessed January 19, 2016.

Pan American Health Organization. Zika virus infection and Zika fever: Frequently asked questions. Updated January 19, 2016. www.paho.org/hq/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=9183&Itemid=41463&lang=en. Accessed January 19, 2016.

Petersen EE, Polen KN, Meaney-Delman D, et al. Update: Interim Guidance for Health Care Providers Caring for Women of Reproductive Age with Possible Zika Virus Exposure -- United States, 2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. ePub: 25 March 2016. Updated March 26, 2016. www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6512e2er.htm?s_cid=mm6512e2er_w. Accessed March 28, 2016.


Review Date: 1/28/2016
Reviewed By: Arnold Lentnek, MD, Infectious Diseases Medical Practice of NY and Clinical Research Center of CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. Editorial update: 03/28/2016.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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