Zika: What You Need to Know

Get the story on this mosquito-borne virus, including symptoms and treatment.

What is Zika?

Zika is a virus—largely transmitted by mosquito bites—that has been seen primarily in Brazil and other countries in South America. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that bites from mosquitoes carry the virus. Sexual contact can also spread Zika and there is the risk of mother-to-child transmission in the womb. Blood transfusions may also spread the virus, although this is not yet confirmed by health experts.

What are symptoms of Zika?

Only 1 in 5 people infected with Zika will display symptoms, which may include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes. Other potential symptoms include muscle pain and headache. In very rare cases, the Zika virus may cause Guillain-Barré syndrome, which may result in partial or full temporary paralysis.

In addition, Zika infection is linked to microcephaly, a condition that causes brain damage in babies born to infected mothers. According to the CDC, if you are pregnant or attempting to become pregnant, your spouse and you may wish to reconsider traveling to certain areas.

How is Zika treated?

There is currently no treatment for Zika; however, the virus usually runs its course in about a week. People with symptoms typically use over-the-counter pain relievers. If you think you may have been exposed to the virus, see your doctor.

How can you prevent Zika?

Because the Zika virus is spread by mosquitoes, one of the best ways to protect yourself against the infection is to take measures to avoid or prevent mosquito bites.

Try these tips:

  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered mosquito repellant throughout the day, re-applying as needed.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants indoors and outdoors.
  • Keep your yard free of standing water, which can be a breeding ground for mosquitos.
  • Protect yourself during sexual contact by using a condom.
  • If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, reconsider traveling to locations where the virus is prevalent.
  • Sleep under a mosquito bed net if air conditioned or screened rooms are not available or if sleeping outdoors.
Learn more about Zika here.
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