What you should know about the Zika Virus

While only about 20% of people with the Zika virus experience symptoms, the greater concern about contracting the virus has been the potential link to birth defects.Zika Virus

What is the Zika Virus?

The Zika virus is spread to people from local mosquitoes. The species of mosquito that transmits the Zika virus primarily bite people during the day.

Transmission of the virus from local mosquitoes to people have been found in the following countries:

  • Central America
  • the Caribbean
  • Pacific Islands
  • South America
  • Cape Verde
  • Mexico.

You may not experience symptoms even if you have the Zika virus. If you do, symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes.

See your doctor if you have these symptoms and have recently travelled to an area where the virus is found. A blood test might be needed to diagnose your illness as Zika, or another similar virus like dengue or chikungunya.

Zika Virus in pregnant women

Women infected with Zika virus are at risk of having a baby born with a birth defect. Microcephaly, having a head smaller than normal, has been found in infants born with Zika virus. This condition causes problems in how the baby’s brain develops. The link between the virus and birth defects is still being investigated.

Precautions to prevent mosquito bites

Because of the potential for birth defects, the CDC recommends that women thinking about becoming pregnant or women who are pregnant in any trimester postpone travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.

If you are going to an area with the Zika virus, it is important to prevent mosquito bites:

• Wear long sleeved shirts and long pants
• Keep mosquitoes out of your room by using window and door screens or using air conditioning
• Sleep under a mosquito net if you are outdoors or in a room not well screened
• Spray insect repellent on your skin
• Treat your clothing and gear with permethrin

Contact your doctor if you have concerns or questions about the Zika virus. Visit our Health Library to learn more about the Zika Virus.

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