Zika Virus Disease (Zika)

Zika Virus Disease (Zika)

About Zika

What is Zika?

Zika virus disease (Zika) is a viral disease spread to people through bites of infected mosquitoes. Mosquitoes become infected by feeding on infected persons.

Where does Zika occur?

Outbreaks of Zika have occurred in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, Central America, South America, the Caribbean and Mexico. For a map, see http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/index.html. Because the mosquitoes that spread the virus are found around the world, it is likely that outbreaks will spread to new countries.

Who gets Zika?

Zika virus is mainly spread by mosquitoes. Anyone traveling to an area where Zika virus is found can become infected. Infections have also been reported in travelers returning to the U.S. from affected areas. Those who do not travel to affected areas are not currently at risk of becoming infected with Zika virus from local mosquitoes because local spread in the continental U.S. by mosquitoes has not been reported.

What are the symptoms of Zika?

About 80% of people who are infected do not become sick. For the 20% who do become sick, the most common symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild and the symptoms typically last several days to a week.

How soon do symptoms occur?

Symptoms usually start 2-7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.

How dangerous is Zika?

During the 2015-2016 outbreak of Zika in Brazil, a large increase in the number of babies born with a congenital birth defect called microcephaly was observed. Microcephaly describes a baby or child with a smaller than normal brain and head. Studies are being done to see if the increase in reports of babies with microcephaly is because of an infection with Zika virus. Other causes are also being investigated. In other past Zika outbreaks, there have been reports of neurologic syndromes, such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome, in a small number of patients.

What special precautions should pregnant women take to prevent Zika?

The effect of Zika during pregnancy is being studied. Out of an abundance of caution, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that pregnant women consider postponing travel to countries with ongoing Zika virus transmission. If pregnant women need to travel to a country with Zika virus transmission, it is recommended they take the following steps to avoid mosquito bites:

  1. Choose an EPA-registered insect repellant and use according to the product label. Use the repellent day and night because the mosquito species that transmit Zika virus are daytime biters that will also enter buildings and bite at night
  2. Use permethrin-treated clothing
  3. Cover exposed skin by wearing long sleeves, pants, and hats
  4. Sleep indoors in rooms screened windows or air-conditioning, or use a bed net if you sleep in a room that is exposed to the outdoors

In addition, if a pregnant woman has a male partner who traveled to an area where Zika virus is spreading, the couple should abstain from sexual activity or consistently and correctly use condoms during all sex for the duration of the pregnancy.

How is Zika virus spread?

Zika virus is mainly spread in a person-to-mosquito-to-person cycle. An infected mosquito bites a person. The person infected by the mosquito will have Zika virus in their blood, especially in the first week of illness. Another mosquito bites that infected person, becomes infected and can then bite another person. People who are infected but who are not sick may still pass the virus on to mosquitoes that bite them. Zika virus can also spread from mother to baby during pregnancy or during the time of birth.

Public health officials in Dallas, Texas have reported one case of Zika acquired through sexual transmission. CDC has confirmed this mode of transmission for Zika virus, but continues to emphasize that the primary mode of Zika virus transmission is through the bite of an infected mosquito. There is still more to be learned regarding sexual contact as a mode of transmission for Zika virus. Based on what we know now, sexual partners can protect each other by using condoms to prevent spreading sexually transmitted infections. People who have Zika can protect others by preventing additional mosquito bites. Further guidance will be released as information becomes available.

What is the treatment for Zika?

There is no specific treatment for Zika. Healthcare providers primarily provide supportive care to relieve symptoms. This may include rest, fluids, and use of over-the-counter medicine, such as acetaminophen, to reduce fever and pain. Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen and naproxen, should be avoided until other causes other than Zika has been ruled out. Infected people should also stay indoors or wear protective clothing and mosquito repellent for the first week after they begin to feel sick. This will help prevent mosquitoes from biting them and potentially spreading the virus to others in the community.

How can Zika be prevented?

There is no vaccine to prevent Zika. Infections can be prevented by avoiding mosquito bites. This includes wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks, using insect repellent or permethrin-treated clothing (especially during the daytime when mosquitos are active), using air conditioning or window/door screens to keep mosquitos outside, and eliminating standing water from containers in yards (including bird baths, flower pots, buckets) to stop mosquito breeding. Men who reside in or have traveled to an area of active Zika virus spread who have a pregnant partner should abstain from sexual activity or consistently and correctly use condoms during sex for the duration of the pregnancy.

What should I do if I think I have Zika?

If you have symptoms of Zika and have been to an affected area in the past two weeks, contact your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider may test your blood for Zika virus and other similar mosquito-borne illnesses. If you are pregnant and traveled to a Zika-affected area within the last 12 weeks, your healthcare provider may test your blood for Zika virus even if you have not experienced symptoms of Zika.

Additional Helpful Pointers

  • Prevent Mosquito Bites
    • Use insect repellent products with no more than 35% N,N-Diethyl- meta-toluamide (DEET) for adults and less than 10% for children
      • Insect Repellent Information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
      • Interactive Guide to Insect Repellents (EPA)
    • Wear long, loose, and light-colored clothing
    • Reduce Mosquito Populations

Residents can reduce their chance of contracting West Nile virus by reducing breeding grounds around their homes. The Health Department recommends the following tips to reduce exposure to mosquitoes:

    • Clean out birdbaths and wading pools once a week
    • Clean roof gutters and downspout screens regularly
    • Create a healthy wetland – Contrary to popular belief, healthy and functioning wetlands can actually reduce mosquito populations
    • Eliminate standing water on tarps or flat roofs
    • Residents may purchase larvicide to treat standing water if it is on their own personal property
    • Residents may purchase Mosquito Dunks® to treat standing water if it is on their own personal property.
    • Turn over or remove containers in your yard where water collects, such as old tires, potted plant trays, buckets, and toys

Where can I get more information?

For additional information, please visit the CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/. You may also call your local health department. A directory of local health departments can be found at: http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/LHD/index.htm. If you have questions about mosquito control programs, you may also contact the Virginia Mosquito Control Association http://www.mosquito-va.org/contact.htm.

*Please be advised this material is furnished for informational purposes and is for your personal use only. It is not intended as a substitute for the expertise, judgment and specific advice of your doctor. Based on your condition and treatment plan, you may have different medical needs. Please talk to your doctor before making changes to your care plan.

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